peatedly passed through in these heedless peregrinations. Some solely set apart for the most abandoned, inconceivable profligacy; others of good reputation, but in which starving economy was evidently engaged in an unceasing warfare with utter want and destitution. This is the sort of streets where the bankrupt tradesman, the unemployed lawyer or physician, the rejected author, and the slighted artist herd together. Alas! how many "good men and true" have perished in these dreary precincts, unnoticed and unknown? How many of "nature's gentlemen," with their fine, high spirits and inborn love of pleasure, but lacking the means of honorably gratifying their social propensities, have sunk, step by step, into the mire of degradation and debasement, until they became the companions of sharpers, or the oracles of pot-houses? How many a gifted spirit, whose strong integrity poverty could not shake, has worn himself away, " contending with low wants and lofty will"-has sickened, perchance of the struggle, yet still borne on for the sake of others, until some slight addition has been forced upon the already intolerable burden, and heart and hope have at once given way, and he has dropped "unhonour'd and unsung," into the common place of repose "where bailiffs cease from troubling, and debtors are at rest.”

Such like blue-devilish reflections have ofttimes forced themselves upon me while roaming amid these dreary dwellings; and I have always felt relieved when on unexpectedly emerging from their dim confines, I have found myself in the vicinity of the open parks, or other fashionable promenades, where vinegar-visaged adversity dared not show her face, and all was life, animation, and enjoyment, and the brilliant butterflies of fashion (with some admixture of loggerheads) were disporting in the sunshine, pranked out in the newest vanities. It was, to say the least, a pleasant dramatic contrast, with a material improvement in the dresses and decorations.

Among their other attractions, the streets of London are rife with human curiosities; and an ardent zoologist must find it very pleasant employment going about comparing the various specimens of the species, assembled from all parts of the globe. The slim, swarthy-featured Lascar or Malay animals (imported in the East India Company's ships), with their malicious countenances and small rattlesnake eyes, in vivid relief to the hippopotamus-looking Bavarian or Dutch "broom girls ;" with faces strikingly similar in form and expression to those of the well-fed cherubs to be met with on gravestones or above altar-pieces; then there are the

juvenile countrymen of William Tell, who have come all the way from the borders of "Geneva's blue waters," or alpine heights where the eagle builds in safety, to the streets of London, to grind away, with cruel perseverance, on a disorganized barrel organ; or vainly endeavor, with unrelenting assiduity, to extract music from the still more distressing hurdy-gurdy. Wandering Savoyards too, with their monkeys, and Scotch bagpipers with their appropriate instruments of torture. Of all the heterogeneous mass, however, the most pitiable are the poor image boys-the offspring of old Rome!— with their lank, sallow cheeks, and large lustrous eyes, pleading, as they best may, in our harsh northern tongue, for the custom of the descendants of the barbarian subjects of their forefathers! I have often been struck with the helpless, desolate look of these poor fragile Italians, wanderers from their own delicious land to a country where they stand all day shivering in the very sunshine, and then creep at night into holes where it were a pity for a dog to lie down and die.

But of all the mendicant classes, which go vagabondizing about, setting equally at defiance old, impotent acts of parliament and the vigilant new police, by far the sturdiest and most numerous are those natives of the metropolis who have devoted

their time and talents to the study of music for the public benefit. They have, as may be surmised, no regular engagements or fixed salaries, but roam about impregnating the air with strange noises in every direction. Unlike the Provençal troubadours of old, they are not distinguishable by any particular costume, but rather affect a diversified style of dress. Their capabilities are wonderful. They do not, like Braham, Phillips, Sinclair, or other professionals, confine themselves to any particular style, but range at will through all the subtle varieties of musical composition, from Mozart to Alexander Lee inclusive. If they fall short of vocalists of greater pretensions in some particulars, they have the advantage of them in others. They are never taken suddenly ill-no man sins his soul by making apologies for them, and they sing equally with a hoarseness as without it. In one thing they strik ingly resemble their brethren of the stage, namely, in the infallible tact and nicety of judgment displayed in introducing airs in appropriate situations; and it is pleasant, amid the rattling of carriages, the rumbling of carts, the heavy rolling of wagons, and the multifarious cries of oysters, hot rolls, and old clothes, to hear a fellow bawling

"Oft in the stilly night,

Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond memory brings the light

Of other days around me !"

or a waddling old woman, with a strictly feline organ, squalling in the vicinity of Billingsgate,

"Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or like a fairy trip upon the green!"

At first this class might be confounded with an inferior species in the provinces, commonly called ballad-singers; but their habits are essentially dif ferent. The primitive race that used to chronicle the deeds of " Jack Monroe," or narrate how "All in the good ship Rover," they had "sailed the world around," are now nearly extinct in the me tropolis. The present "minstrelsy" of London, seem to execute no other than the newest and most fashionable pieces; and the contrast is, at times, both laughable and melancholy, in returning from the theatre where Vestris, or some of the other sirens of the stage, have been floating before you in an atmosphere of pleasure, and warbling their arch or joyous ditties to delighted ears, to hear some poor homeless wretch, trembling in the heavy dews of midnight, howling the self-same strains to heedless passengers as they hurry past him with a quickened step to their comfortable beds. You scarcely know which to be sorriest for-the air or the performer. The contrast too, between the words of the lively, pathetic or bacchanalian melodies which

« ElőzőTovább »