The following "sketch," by Boz, the editor, or author, of the Picknick Papers, will recall to many of our readers, the re- collection of many a happy day of juvenile fun and frolic ; we make no apology for, its
length, as every line teems with entertain-
" If the Parks be 'the lungs of London/ we wonder what Greenwich Fair, is-ra perio- dical breaking out, we suppose ; a sort of spring-rush-a three days' fever, which cools the blood for six months afterwards, and, at the expiration of which, London is restored to its old habits of plodding industry, as sud- denly and completely as if nothing had ; ever happened to disturb them. In our earlier days, we were a constant frequenter of Green- wich Fair for years. We'have proceeded) to, and returned from it, in almost everydescrip tion of vehicle. We cannot conscientiously deny the charge of having once made the pas- sage in a spring van, accompanied by thirteen gentlemen, fourteen ladies, an unlimited-num- ber of children, and a barrel of beer; and we have a vague recollection of having in later days found ourselves the eighth outside on^the top of a, hackney-coach, at something .past four o'clock in the morning, with a rather confused idea,of our own name, or place of residence. We have grown older since then; and quiet and steady; liking nothing better than to spend i our Easter and all our other holidays, in some quiet nook, with people of whom we shall never tire ; but we think t we shall still remember a good deal of Greenwich fair¿ and those who resort to it.
The road to Greenwich during the whole of Easter Monday, presents a scene of animated bustle, which cannot fail to amuse ,the most indifferent observer. Cabs, hackney-coaches, <?' shay* carts,' coal-waggons, stages, omnibuses, sociables, gigs, donkey,cbaisee-all crammed with ¡people J (for the question never is^wbat tbeihorse can draw, but what the vehicle will hold), roll'along at their ¡utmost speed-the > dust flies in clouds-ginger-beer corks ;go; off
in volleys-the balcony of .every public-house is crowded with people smoking and drinking, half) the i private houses are, turned jntoitea iBbopsr-fiddles are in great request-every little fruit shop displays its stall of gut gingerbread and penny toys-turnpike men are in despair horses won't go on, and wheels will come off -ladies ins ' crawans'r aercam-twith fright at every fresh concussion, and their admirer» find
it necessary to sit remarkably close to them, by way of encouragement-servants of all wórk, who ate not allowed to have'followers, and have got a holyday for the day* make the most of their time with the faithful admirer, who waits for a stolen interview at the corner of the street every night, when they go to fetch the beer-apprentices grow1 sentimental ami straw boniiet-makers kind; every body is .anxious to get on, and actuated by the com- mon wish to be at the fair or in the park, as soon as possible. Pedestrians linger in groups at the road-side, unable to resist the allure- ments of the stout proprietress of the ' Jack in-the-box-three shies a penny,' or the more splendid offers of the man with three thimbles «nd a pea on a little round board* who astonishes 'the bewildered crowd with some such addresses as, ' Here's the sort o'game to Sake you laugh seven years arter you're dead,
id turn ev'y aiton your ed grey with delight j
Three thimbles and vnn little pea-^-with a vun, two; three, and a two, three, vun ; catch him Who can, look oh, keep your eyes open, and never say die! never mind the chance, and damn the expense t all fair and above board ; them as don't play can't vin, and luck attend the royal sportsman ! ' Bet any gen'l'man any sum of money, from arf-a-crown up to a soverin, as he dosn't name the thimble as kivers the pea !' .Here some greenhorn whis- pers his friend that he distinctly saw the pea roll under the middle thimble-an impression which is immediately confirmed by a gentle- man in top-boots who is standing by, and who in a low tone regrets his own inability to bet in consequence of having unfortunately left his purse at home, but strongly urges the stranger not to neglect such a golden oppor- tunity. The ' plant,' is successful ; the bet is made ; the stranger of course loses, and the
gentleman with the thimbles consoles him as he pockets the money with an assurance that it's all the fortín of war ! this time I vin, next time you vin ; never mind the loss of two bob and a bender ! Do it up in small parcel, and break out in a fresh place ! . ' Here's the sort o'game,' &c.-and the eloquent harangue with such variations as the speaker's exuberant fancy suggests, is again, repeated to the gaping crowd, reinforced by the accession of several
The chief place of resort in the day-time, after the public-house, is the park, in which the principle amusement is to drag young ladies up the steep hill which leads to the ob- servatory, and then drag them down again at the very top of their speed, greatly to the de- rangement of their curls, and much to the edification of lookers on from below. ' Kiss in the Ring,' and 'Threading my Grand- mother's Needle,' too, are sports which re- ceive their full share of patronage. Love-sick swains, under the influence of gin-and-vvater, arid the tender passion, become violently af- fectionate ; and the fair objects of their regard enhance the value of stolen kisses, by a vast deal of struggling, and holding down of heads, and cries of ' Oh,! ha' done, then, George Oh, do tickle him for, me Mary.-Well, I never!' and similar Lucretian ejaculations. Little old men and women, with a small basket under one arm, and a wine-glass, without a. foot, in the other hand, tender ' a drop o' the right sort' to the different groups ; and young ladies, who are persuaded to indulge in a drop of the aforesaid right sort, display a pleasing degree of reluctance to taste it, and cough af- terwards with great propriety. The old pen- sioners, who, for the moderate charge of a penny, exhibit the mast-house, the Thames, and shipping, the place where the men used J to* hang in chains, and other interesting sights
through a telescope, are asked questions about objects within the range of the glass, which it would puzzle a Solomon to answer ; and re Suested to find out particular houses in par-
odiar streets, which it would have been a task of some difficulty for Mr. Horner, (not the young gentleman who eats mince pies with
his thumb, but the man of Colosseum noto- riety) to discover. Here and there, where some three or four couple are sitting on the grass together, you will see a sun-burnt woman in a red cloak * telling fortunes,' and prophesying husbands, which it requires no
extraordinary observation to describe, for the : pnginalB are before her. Thereupon the lady I concerned taughs and pushes» ultimately
buries her face in an imitation-cambric hand- kerchief, and the gentleman described looks extremely foolish, and squeezes her hand, and fees the gypsy liberally ; and the gypsy goes away perfectly satisfied, and leaving those be* hind her perfectly satisfied also, and the pro- phecy, like many other prophecies of greater importance, fulfils itself m time. But it grows dark,'the'crowd has gradually dispersed, and only a few stragglers are left behind. The light in the direction of the church shows that the fair is illuminated, and the distant noise
roves it to be filling fast. The spot which alf an hour ago was ringing with shouts of 'boisterous'mirth, is as calm and quiet as if nothing could ever disturb its serenity; the fine old trees, the majestic building at your ' feet/with the noble river beyond, glistening
in the moonlight, appear before you in all ' 'their beauty, and under the most favourable >' > aspect ; the voices of the asylum boys singing
their evening hymn are borne faintly to your .ear, and you feel something like pride on re
fleeting, as you bend your steps towards the Park-gate, that' you belong to the Country, which has selected such a spot, as a retreat for ita oldest and best defenders,'in the decline of life. .
Five minutes walking brings you to the fair; a scene'calculated to awaken very dif- ferent feelings from those inspired by the place you have Just left. The entrance is oc- cupied on either side by the vendors of gin- gerbread and toys ; the stalls are gaily lighted up, the most attractive goods profusely dis- posed, and unbonneted young ladies, in their zeal for the interest of their'employers, seize you by the coat, and use all'their blandish- ments of * Do dearV-íThere's a love'-Don't be cross now,' &c, to induce you to purchase half a pound of the real spice nuts, 'of which the majority of the regular fair goers carry a pound or two .as a präsent supply, tied up in a cotton pocket-handkerchief. Occasionally, you pass a deal table, on which are exposed pen'orths of pickled salmon (fennel included) in little white saucers ; oysters with shells as large as cheese-plates, and divers specimens Of a species of snail (wilks, we think they are called) floating in a somewhat bilious-looking green liquid. Cigars, too, are in great de- mand ; gentlemen must smoke, of course, and here they are, two a penny, in a regular au- thentic cigar box, with a lighted tallow candle
in the centre.
Imagine yourself in an extremely dense crowd, which swings you to and fro and in and out, and every way but the right one ; add to this the screams of women, the shouts of boys, the clanging of gongs, the firing of pistols, the ringing of bells, the hollowings of speaking-trumpets, the squeaking of penny dittos,, the noise*of a dozen bands, with three drums in each, all playing .different tunes at the same time, the hollowing of showmen, and an occasional roar from the wild beast shows, and you are in the centre and heart of the fair. This immense booth, with the large stage in front, so brightly illuminated with variagated lamps and pots of burning fat, is ' Richardson's,' where you have a melo-drama (with three murders and a ghost,) a panto mine, a comic song, an overture, and some incidental music, all done in five-and-twenty minutes. The company are now promenading outside in all the dignity of wigs, spangles,
red-ochre, and whiting. . See, with what a ferocious air the gentleman, who personates the Mexican chief, paces ,up and down, and with what an eye of calm dignity the principal tragedian gazes on the crowd below, or con- verses confidentially with therharlequin. The four clowns, who are engaged in a mock broad sword combat, may be all very well for the low-minded holyday makers; put these are the people for the reflective portion of the community. They look so noble in those Roman dresses, with their yellow legs and arms, long black curly heads, bushey eye- brows, and scowl expressive of assassination and vengeance, and every thing else that is grand and solemn. Then the ladies-were there ever such innocent and awful-looking beings, as they walk up and down the plat- forms in twos and ^threes, with their arms round each other's waists, or leaning for sup- port on one of those majestic men! Their spangled muslin dresses and blue satin shoes and sandals (a leetle the worse for wear) are the admiration of all beholders ; and the playful manner in ?which' they check the advances of the clown is perfectly enchanting ' Just a-going to begin 1 Pray come for'erd, come for'erd,' exclaims the man in the countryman's dress, for the seventieth time, and. people force their way up the steps in crowds. The band sud- denly strikes up ; the harlequin and colum- bine set the example; reels are foimed in less than no time ; the Roman heroes place their arms a-kimbo and dance with considerable agility; and the leading tragic actress/ and the gentleman who enacts the 'swell' in the pantomine, foot it to perfection. 'All in to begin,' spouts the manager when no more people can be induced to ' come for'erd,' and away rush the leading mem- bers of the company to do the dreadful in the first piece. A change of performance takes place every day during the fair, but the story of the tragedy is always pretty much the same. There's a rightful heir, who loves a young lady« and ia "beloved by her;« ¡and the wrongful heir who loves her too, and isn't loved by her; and the wrongful heir, gets holds of the, rightful heir, and throws him into a dungeon, just to kill him off when convenient, for which purpose he hires a couple of assassins-a good one and a bad one--who, the moment they are left alone, get up a little murder on their own account ; the good one killing the bad one, and the bad one wounding the good one. Then the rightful heir is dis- covered in prison, carefully holding a long chain in his hands, and seated despondingly in a' large arm chair;, and the young lady comes in to two bars of soft music, and em- braces the rightful heir ; and then the wrong- ful heir comes in to two bars of quick music,
ond goes on in the most shocking manner, ' throwing the young lady about as if she was nobody, and calling the rightful heir " Ar re- creant-ar-wretch 1" in a very loud voice, which answers the double purpose of display- ing his passion, and preventing the sound being deadened by the sawdust. The interest
becomes intense; the wrongful heir draws his sword, and rushes on the rightful heir ; a blue smoke ia seen, a gong is heard, and a tall white figure (who has been all this time behind the atm^chair, covered over with a table-cloth) slowly rises to the tunet>f " Oftin^the stilly night," This is no other than the ghost uf the rightful heir's father, who was killed by the wrongful heir's father, at the sight of which, the wrongful heir becomes apoplectic, and is literally 'struck all of a heap/ the stage not being large enough to admit of his falling down at full, length. Then the good assassin staggers in, and says, he was hired in conjunc- tion with the bad assassin, by the wrongful heir, to kill the rightful heit; and he's killed a good many people in his time, but he's sorry for it, an,d won't do so any more-a promise which he immediately redeems by dying off hand, without any nonsense about it. Then the rightful heir throws down his chain ; and then two men, a sailor, }and young woman (¡the tenantry Of the" rightful heir) Come id ;r and the ghost makes dumb motions to them, which they, by supernatural interference un derstand-for no one else can ; and the ghost (who can't do anything without blue fire) blesses the rightful heir and the young lady, by half suffocating them with smoke, and then a muffin-hell rings, and the curtain drops.
> The exhibitions next in popularity to those itinerant theatres, are the travelling mena- geries, or, to speak more inteligibly, the ' Wild-beast shows,' where a military band in beef-eater's costume, with leopard skin caps, play incessantly ; and where large high-colored representations of tigers tearing men's heads open,* and a lion being burnt with red hot irons to induce him to drop his victim, are hung up outside by way of attracting visitors.
The principal officer at these places is ge- nerally a very tall, hoarse man, in a scarlet coat, with a cane in his hand, with which he occasionally raps the pictures we have just noticed, by way of illustrating his descrip- tion-something in this way,-" Here, here, here ; the lion, the lion (tap,) exactly as he is represented on the canvass outside (three taps:) no waiting remember; no deception. The fe-ro-cious lion (tap, tap) who bit off the gentleman's head last Cambervel vos a twelve-, month, and has killed on the average three keepers a-year ever since he arrived at ma toority. INO extra charge on this account re- collect ; the price of admission is only six- pence." This address never fails to produce a considerable sensation, and sixpences flow into the treasury with wonderful rapidity.
The dwarfs are also objects of great cu- riosity ; and as a dwarf, a giantess, a living skeleton, a wild Indian, a " young lady of singular beauty, with perfectly white hair and pink eyes," and two or three other natural cu- riosities are usually exhibited together for the small charge of a penny, they attract very nu- merous audiences. The best thing about a dwarf is, that he has always a little box, about two feet six inches high, into which, by long practice, he can just manage to get by doub- ling himself up like a boot-jack; this box is painted outside like a six-roomed house, and as the crowd see him ring a bell, or fire a pis- tol out of the first floor" window, they verily believe that it is his ordinary town residence, divided like other mansions into drawing rooms, dining parlour, and bedchambers-«, Shutup in this case, the unfortunate little object is brought out to delight the throng hy hold- ing a facetious dialogue with the proprietor, in the course of which, the dwarf (who is
always particularly drunk) pledges himself to
sing a.comic song inside : then follow various compliments to the ladies, which induce them to " come for'erd" with great alacrity. As a giant is not so easily moved, a pair of indes cribables of most capacious dimensions, and a
huge shoe, are usually brought out, into which two or three stout men get al) at once, to the enthusiastic delight of the crowd, who are quite satisfied with the solemn assurance that these habiliments ¡form part of the giant's every day costume.
The grandest and most numerously fre- quented booth in the whole fair, however, is "The'Crown and Anchor*-a temporary ball- room-we forget how many hundred feet long, the price of admission to which is one shilling. Immediately on youl right hand as you enter; after paying you* «money, is -a, refreshment Ïlace, at which cold beef," roast and boiled
'rench rolls, stout, wine, tongue, ham, even
fowls, if we recollect right, ace displayed in tempting array. There isa raised orchestra, I and the place is boarded all the way down in Catches, just wide enough for a country dance,
'here is no master of the ceremonies in this artificial Eden-all is primitive, unreserved; and unstudied. The dust is bunding, the heat insupportable, the company somewhat noisy, and in the highest spirits possible ; the "ladies in the height of their innocent animation, dancing in the gentlemen's hats, arid the gen- tlemen promenading 'the gay and festive scene'
in the ladies' bonnets, or with the more ex-1 pensive ornaments of false vrioses, and low crowned, tinder-box looking hats, playing children's drums, and accompanied by ladies on the penny trumpet ; the noise of these various instruments, the orchestra, the shouting, ' the scratchers,' and the dancing, is perfectly bewildering. The dancing itself heggers de-
scription-every figure lasts about an hour, '
and the ladies bounce about witha*degrée0> spirit which is quite indescribable» As to the gentlemen, they stamp their feet against thl ground, every time Í hands four round' begins« go down the nucidle and up again with cigars
m their mouths and silk handkerchiefs in the» ' hands and,whirl theirpartnersround, nothing * loath, scrambling and falling, and embracing and knocking up against the other couples until they are fairly tired out, and can mort no longer. The same scene is repeated again and again (slightly varied by ah occasional ' row') until a late hpfir at night ; and a great many clerks -and 'prentices find themselvea
next morning with aching heads, empty I pockets, damaged hats, and a very imperfect I recollection of how it was they did neiget I home." _ |