Hypocritical Cant

Upon Reflections Exacerbated By A Black Box

The streets of London are damp, and dark, and wet and the populace of the city in the main, wend their weary, tired ways through its straw covered streets on foot. Some of these feet are eccentrically shod, wrapped as they are in bits of paper and strips of rag, and some of these feet are not shod at all.

Many of the populace carry burdens with them, piece work, bundles of second-hand clothing, dried & preserved turkey twizzler strips, trays of unsold trout bloaters and baked potatoes, slathered in cold turkey twizzler grease. There are those who have the luxury of travel on wheels; the enslaved apprentices of Spitalfield’s Workhouse are crammed into a wooden cart till it weaves and waddles on its way, looking as though at any moment it might overturn. Horse drawn carriages are for the Aristocracy, whose feet are far too delicate to join the dance of the striving, struggling masses of London. One such carriage glides noiselessly through London’s darkened streets, it’s way lit by the gas lamps fixed on  either side of  the doors. The carriage bears no coat of arms though it carries a very important load, a very powerful individual of singular political influence.

Down into Lime Cutter Lane the carriage travels, past the rag and bone merchants and the stray child scrabbling for pennies in the dirt. Past the Old Bailey, where only just this evening another six men were sentenced to death, for having rioted. It is Newgate Street where the glossy coated horse slows, before entering the central courtyard of Newgate Prison.

The sole occupant of the carriage, swaddled in a heavy travelling cloak, opens the door and swiftly descends into the cobbled courtyard where the governor of the prison awaits. “M’Lord” the prison superintendent coughs nervously, for it is not every day (thank heavens!) that one of her majesty’s prisons is blessed with a visit from near-royalty. “Is he within?” the visitor inquires brusquely, “He is m’lord and has been waiting, much patient, for your visitation” saying no more the prison governor meekly ushers his guest in through the prison door.

A pervasive reek greets the nostrils of this priviledged visitor and for the merest of moments he rears back in disgust, then swallowing hard he journeys on, deep into the bowels of that sombre institution. Past the women’s quarters where much sobbing can be heard, past the chapel where redemption after the punishment of dire iniquities is preached. Till he arrives at last before the half open door of a decidedly cheery looking room wherein the man he has come to see sits, wrapped in a thick woollen shawl, smoking his pipe. “Good evening your lordship” the bon vivant chuckles,”I’d thought you’d never visit! Care for a glass of beer?” A look of distinct, frosty displeasure passes over the face of this great man as he unwraps himself ( he is dressed for the opera) and slowly sits down in a chair humbly proffered by the embarassed prison governor. For reasons that will become apparent later in this story, he is having much difficulty assuming a comfortable position in his armchair. Observing his physical discomfort the union rep raises one eyebrow and smirks.

“Well” the gentleman says dourly slowly removing the pristine white gloves from each hand and placing them in his lap, “Your time has run out. I trust that I may inform Her Majesty that you have agreed to the offer made?” the union rep makes no reply, he is too busy enjoying his brandy and the spectacle of a discomforted and extremely distracted politician, one whose mind is clearly elsewhere. “So far” the politician continues, placing one delicate white hand softly upon the other,”So far fifty-one rebellious souls have departed this earth and another hundred will very shortly be deported unless you come to an agreeable answer, this is all such needless and pointless suffering. We had rather all defiant indolence ceased, and the parties in question returned to work”  the union rep takes a cigar out of the breast pocket of his prison jacket ushering for it to be lit, which the prison superintendent duly does, darting a nervous glance at the eminent politician.

Having taking a fragrant puff or two, he makes his reply, “You say OUR time has run out, I say this, when woz the last time you walked through the streets of your own city? You darst not. Name a single working man in this city, a single foot soldier you’d trust with your children’s lives, you can’t. Give me the name of the foremen whose ard work and dwilligence keeps your economy at full thwottle, name me a single child ground to death in them mill machines or burnt alive in one of your chimneys, or buried alive in your coal mines whose name you know, the names of your ‘oundz are dearer to thee than they! And you talk to me of ultimatums!” puffing once more on his fragrant cigar the union rep fixes a contemptuous stare on the politician who has dipped his lips into the subtlest sneer, “I take it the answer is no then?” the union rep nods brusquely, “Just so. No.”

The eminent politician smiles quietly to himself, unfolds his delicate hands, pulls on his gloves, replaces his hat upon his head, wraps himself once more in his cloak and as he turns to go these are the final words that are flung after him,”Try China Town, mayhap there’s a nunnery there NOT affiliated to the unions or related to such as are!” the eminent politician is ushered to the door and through it by the nervous prison superintendent who watches as he re-enters his carriage and departs. A gentle rain is falling so that the filthy cobbles of the prison courtyard glitter and glisten, dirt and all. He sighs, this has been the third such visit in as many weeks and each time he must needs fortify his nerves with a quart of gin “Ths can’t go on for much longer” he mutters to himself as he stands in the courtyard doorway smoking a cigar and watching the rainfall, “You’re right” agrees the union rep, smoking alongside him, “It can’t and it won’t” fixing him with an inquiring glance the prison superintendent says, “the brothel keepers are on strike you say?” the union rep smiles dourly,”Aye, whose kids do you think Lord Aberdeen has been executing?”

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Hypocritical Cant

A Hell-Bent Soul

man-kneeling-in-prayer

An account of the behaviour of Thomas Lovell, alias ‘Bobbish Todger’ in the days leading up to his trial and subsequent execution at Newgate Prison, on tuesday, the 12th of November, 1857. Thomas Lovell was indicted for that he in a certain place, within Grid-Iron Square, near the Queen’s highway, did make an assault upon Constable Qwinty, putting him in coporal fear and danger of his life and stealing from his person a truncheon worth one guinea and a whistle worth five shillings. He was a second time indicted for that he did make an assault upon Corporal Gerald Buckner of the 8th Hussars, putting him in fear and danger of his life and stealing from his person a cutlass worth forty shillings. Thomas Lovell was, of late, a silk mill worker who having found himself placed on much reduced hours by the mill owner Sir Harold Rutherford, took to the streets of London to protest the financial and material degradation of him and his family.

“T’was when the union rep spoke, that my heart first became a-fired within me, and I betook me the truncheon of the first enemy of promise that I encountered and that were that”

A’las Thomas Lovell displayed no repentance with regards to his two recorded assaults and even less once he had learned that in consequence of his reprehensible actions he wa to be executed a day hence.

“T’was all I would have expected from them as has the power and naught of the compassion to see to it that us poor folk is as comfortable in life as they. I do not fear what comes after this life, my only worry is as to what will become of my Alice and our three young uns”

It was pointed out to the condemned man that what with the proliferation of executions there would be plenty of vacancies at the match factory and that his ‘young uns’ might very well find work there; at which news his eyes rolled back in his head, he gnashed his teeth and tried to grip my throat. Needless to say the prison warden was markedly short with the prisoner, rapping him thrice upon the head, much to my horror, and warning him that he’d ‘do for him right this minute’ if he continued to display such poor manners. Whereupon the prisoner stifled a sob and moderated his behaviour.

Having examined the death warrant and found himself in it, the prisoner wept bitterly and as he could neither read nor write I took laborious pains to ensure that he was adequately instructed in his preparations for eternity. When asked how frequently he attended the Chapel of St Gove he replied “as frequently as Alice required me to” in other words not very frequently at all. And when he did attend it was only to fall asleep in his pew and sweat off the beers he had drunk from the night before. Indeed such t’was the spiritual condition of this unhappy man that t’was a wonder that he and the hang man had not met long before now.

I could not help but to wonder what efficacious transformations might have been wrought in this prisoner had his parents but trained him up in the right way. Having prepared him for his fate the prison warden saw fit to have him haltered and pinnioned in readiness for his execution. This sorry process was accompanied by many tears on the prisoner’s part, but he himself acknowledged that the punishment was just, his having presumed to tell his betters what the nature of a fair wage and fair working conditions were. “T’were wrong of us to presume that the bosses prosperity would benefit us and we have paid the price for our presumption”

I left the prisoner with a humble copy of the testimonies of Gove (bound in cured and tanned turkey twizzler leather) in order that he might reflect all the more on his past behaviour and the eternal bliss (or damnation) which awaited him.

An ACCOUNT of the BEHAVIOUR Of Thomas Lovell (alias Bobbish Todger) prior to his execution, RECOUNTED by virtue of the Queen’s commission of the peace, Julius Eyre.

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