Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire

Mile End’s Depths! Christoffer Harlow’s London!

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Trees that live long grow slowly, and like a mighty Oak, that highly prized jewel of many an English Forest, London has been fought over again and again; indeed she has been so brutally captured & so thoroughly ravaged that t’is a wonder she is able to arise time & again untainted & unpolluted by the dank & dismal deeds of her direst (and most sinistrous) conquerors. To such infusoria (the historically deranged & the lunatick) history pays little heed, and so the earliest rulers of London have passed away like the beasts they fought and slew, and their very names and heinous legacies have passed on with them.

Save one such legacy (most sinister & also sinistrous) well hidden some six feet beneath a graveyard in Mile End. Very likely it is hidden even deeper than that, for it is a fragment of a much earlier London, a muddied and fossilized place resonant of a vicious savagery born of frenzied spiritual ardour.In that place lie tombs, keys, weapons and roughly hewn statues of he whose most glorious essence (one dare not utter his name!) lingers still over our England (though his most ardent followers have lately fallen into scandal). 

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Mile End is a place of little import famed only as the home of Reverend Unctuous, he who having lately fallen from grace, abides infrequently at the chaplaincy of St Mary Produndis. St Mary Profundis, whose graveyard is now the burial place of one Master Hemphill-Skinner; he whose most unfortunate end at the hands (some say) of The Right Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe (lately committed to Bethel Asylum), has since passed into the lore of the Bow Street Detective Force.

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But I digress, dear reader, for Mile End’s depths harbour a secret of much portentous and direst import. A secret (post-pagan and Pre-Christian) buried so long and only lately resurrected beneath that vast ocean that is London, that one must bear in mind the words of that infamous playwright Christoffer Harlow ‘the refined gent is struck with Mile-End as comprehending all that is most intriguing about London life at it’s most exhaustively principled, and inexhaustibly depraved’.

I could scarce disagree, for Mile End’s inhabitants are so multifarious that to touch upon the accomplishments of the good and the great, is to inadvertently lean upon the heinous doings of that other sort. Those whom we deign to refer to as the bludgers & buttock twangers, the sneak thieves and coves of the British Empire’s great proletariat, race.

To be continued…….

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Delectatio Morosa

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“Is his Mibs doing the rounds tonite?”

“Just turned down Cobblers Row get a move on girl! You’ll catch him yet!”

Skittles plucks up her already too short skirts till her crisp white bloomers show almost to the knee and streaks down Bell End Rd turning into Cobblers Row. Hobbling along on his walking stick his Lordship has paused midway on his journey, to have congress with a drunken street walker and two little girls. Another eye rolling situation so far as Skittles is concerned, for his Lordship has an unnerving habit of taking up causes that he would do better not to trifle with, and this is such a one.

A drunken whore wending her way down an infamous street in the dead of night? And with two young silk mill workers? There can be little guessing what she has in mind for them! And has iz Mibs checked the darkened alleyways for lurking pimps? Az e eck! Blowing shrilly through her fingers so that his Lordship twitches and his back stiffens she shrieks “Oi! Oi! Lord Gladstone! Iz Lordship oi!”

There are many back roads to be found from the gates of the Houses of Parliament to Soho and this is his favourite. The Turkey Twizzlers are a delight to smell and taste, and the countless conversations he has had with bloater sellers, market stall holders, cabmen and road sweepers have proved highly informative. Particularly when formulating policy in the Palace of Westminster. The only poison tainting his unbridled joy at the highways and by-roads of London is that overflow of unbridled misery, prostitution. And tonight is no exception,”You would sell these children? And for what purpose?” he poses this question (with his hands softly clasped upon his cane) as gently as if he were talking to a fellow member of the house.

“Would you buy them? I can’t feed them no more, they’ve been laid off orf the mill, I needs must eat”. A cunning look passes over her raddled features as she says this for it is clear that she has not eaten in some time, gin being her staple diet. “Why you could live like a prince off their earnings…once they’ve been fed,will you take em?” asks the child-seller, her words afloat on a vaporous sea of cheap gin, “Thruppence for each of em!There’s plenty of work in em you won’t be disappointed!”. The Right Honourable William Gladstone, Member of Parliament for Newark shudders inwardly and, rummaging in his trouser pocket soon comes up with the ‘two sets of thruppence’ requested. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, the two children are his. Sold to him with less warmth than an African slave upon an auction block.

“A distressing occurence!” he mutters to himself, “And what to do about it? They are too young to be taken to the House of St Barnabas and I don’t see how I can welcome them into my home with out inviting scandal, what to do, what to do, what to do…”

Skittles observing his dilemma thanks god for a cove as soft in the head as this one, she espies a large meal and a warm bed in the offin, if she’s congenial enough.

“How old is they? They looks to be about ten to me” asks she, staring intently at the drugged countenances of the newly purchased children. “Is the age of relevance?” inquires the naif-like politician as much out of irritation as ignorance. “Younger than ten and they’ll arrest you” she states matter of factly, “you may do as you wish if they’s older”.

“How old?”

“Twelve”

“Dear God!Thrust by the tidal wave of degeneracy, into the ocean of depravity, at so young an age? We must save them! Quick! Take them down Bottle Alley and up Bell End Road, I have a hansom cab waiting”.

“For ow much?” she replies, “Creepin roun them back roads with them two they’ll be wonderin’ what I’m a doin thin! There’s risk in it” and she that has spent many a night down in the police cells as punishment for iniquitous wanderings should know.

“Two shillings, a good meal and a lengthy talk against the dangers of prostitution once we arrive home”

“Done!”

It had been a warm summer’s night when first he had strolled out of the Palace of Westminster and headed in the direction of Soho. And yet it feels to him, as if all possible joy and warmth had leeched out of that part of the world that is Soho. “To be reduced to selling one’s children, how terrible!”

Skittles shakes her head angrily,”Hark at you! Sellin one’s children! What makes you think them kids is ‘ers? What makes you think this life is so terrible? I’ve known more Gonophs transported fore they was twelve, than I have Blowens imprisoned for plying their trade. T’is not nearly so bad as you’d make out!”.

“But why must the choice always be thieving or whoring? There are positions a-plenty in London why must the choice always be so morally bleak!”

“I goes to confession every Sunday morn at St-Tobias-in-the-North! I ain’t so morally bleak as you think!”

They walk on in silence tugging the two young girls along behind them down squalid streets awash with sewage; past half dressed women tugging drunken men in through half-open doors. The dark streets are lit up by open pub doorways in which affable customers lounge, they sparkle with the strewn shards of smashed beer glasses. Skittles and Mr Gladstone hurry on, stepping carefully around stinking puddles of gin and the various cross-eyed brutes immersed in beating rogue ‘customers’.

They walk quickly through the dark averting their eyes whenever it is expedient to do so, for there are only so many sin steeped souls a man can redeem on any given night. Striding quickly down Bell End Road they are soon safely esconsed within the Hackney Carriage that will ferry them to a neighbourhood of clean, well-lit streets and respectable homes full of vast well-stocked pantries. Mr Gladstone is elated, that is till he catches himself gazing a little too long at the laced up bows on Skittles begrimed ankle boots, there will he thinks guiltily, be more than one confession to make in his diary tonight.

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Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Weighed In The Balance & Found Wanting

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“By reason of some defects in the law, the poor used not to be restrained from travelling from workhouse to workhouse; taking up residence in those poor houses which provided the largest bowls of gruel and the comfiest pallets of straw”.

“Shameful!” declared the Countess De Lacey and the gentleman accompanying her (the Reverend Farthengrodden) looks similarly shocked. But the Right Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe smiles reassuringly, “the Poor Law Amendment Act soon put paid to that criminal practice, as a result we have far fewer workhouses and those we do have are much more efficiently managed”. He ushered his guests into a poor ward where four dozen women sitting on wooden stools were stooped low over wooden pails peeling potatoes. Heaps of unpeeled potatoes lay piled on the floor beside them,”You see that here on this ward the time of the poor people is well spent. Here, dissipation and depravity are discouraged. Once they were steeped to the neck in vice but now their energies are redirected to the betterment of themselves and their fellow man”.

“Pray tell, what is it they are doing?”

“Preparing dinner for the brotherhood”

“The brotherhood have a monastery here?” Ethelbert-Smythe beams with pride,

“The Spitalsfield monastery was established in the first year of my guardianship and, by the end of this year, the Spitalsfield Industrial School will open. As is usually the custom it will be staffed by two dozen novitiates of the Goveen Brotherhood”. Countess de Lacey looks awed and Ethelbert-Smythe feels certain that her donations to the workhouse will increase as a result.”With the aid of the brotherhood we hope to turn the eyes of the poor people ever toward heaven and their revered benefactors, St. Gove be praised!”

“Sweet Gove!” clutching his prayer beads tightly the Reverend Farthengrodden whispers the blessing in such a way as to cause the hackles to rise up on the back of the workhouse guardian’s neck. “If you would come this way you will see how we correct that degeneracy so syptomatic of indolent living”.

The Right Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe ushers his guests from the ward and down the corridor encountering an attendant cradling a babe in the crook of one thin arm. “Thanks to the poor law amendments the number of bastards born to unwed mothers has significantly decreased. For those which remain we supply wet nurses at modest cost”. He gestured dismissively toward the wet nurse smiling with approval as she produced a tiny bottle of laudanum administering a dose to the child in her arms. “Once children are of age they are sent to the industrial schools for morning instruction and from thence to work”.

“At what age are they sent out to work?”

“Why as soon as they are out of swaddling clothes and are lucid enough to be able to talk! Most commonly at the age of four, at the age of three if they seem able bodied enough.”

“But at that age they are so diminutive!”

“Quite, making it extremely easy for them to move amongst the cogs and wheels of mill machines for lint cleaning and such. Once they are eight they are released from our care unless they have decided to take up holy orders, in which case they are received into the brotherhood and trained as novitiates”.

The smell of the workhouse is as turgid as it is cloying and it is almost with relief that his guests enter the workhouse gardens. For there the burgeoning, ripening tomatoes and turnips, elderberries and apricots, give off an appetizing fragrance. In fact the aroma of this abundance of hanging fruit and flourishing vegetables seems to nullify the lingering unpleasantness of the gloomy workhouse interior. It is as if the gardens were a bridge transporting them from grimy pauperism to fragrant affluence. “Are all these for the consumption of the poor?” inquires the countess and a raised eyebrow is her reply,

“these are for the consumption of the guests at the Midland Grand Hotel under an arrangement which we have with the cook there. Any profits generated are ploughed back into the work, the consent of the guardians permitting”.

“M’lud” a wizened looking man has shambled up to the Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe and is now ferociously plucking at the sleeve of his tailored jacket with his gnarled, grimy fingers,”M’lud”

“Yes Master Fluttock, what is it?”

“You’re needed in the infirmary sir”

“Is Doctor Garrick not in attendance?”

“Nurse says he is somewhat indisposed and to call on you to come diwectly sir”

“And what of Master Wisteria?” Master Fluttock flinches at the mention of that name and a look of dread marrs his worn face,”Looked for him but couldn’t find him sir”

“Tell nurse I shall be along shortly” tugging his greasy forelock the elderly gent slowly shambles back the way he came. As he passes her the Countess wrinkles her nose for the old man smells more strongly than any item or person she has yet encountered within the Spitalfields poor house. “Are there many old people here?” she asks, if there were what should we do with them? He thinks. “Precious few” he replies,”The profligacy of debauched living, of drunkeness and unbridled vice mean that precious few endure old age here. No, our inmates range from the age of three months to forty years”

“And how old is Master Fluttock?” inquires Reverend Farthengrodden

“Forty two years or so, he might well be younger” replies Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe carelessly, he has long since ceased to be amazed at the weary, wizened appearances of the Spitalsfields inmates. Perhaps if they had been inclined to live lives less steeped in gin, and if they had taken more care over their observance of the Sabbath, theirs would have been an old age radiant with vibrant youthful promise as his had been.

“Forty two years old!” declares the Reverend disparagingly “and wholly dependent upon the largesse of the workhouse? How so?”

“He stated that he had broken his back in an accident at a Montaperti Silk Mill but it later transpired that the accident had been due solely to his own drunken negligence”

“And yet you permitted him to remain?”  Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe shrugged,

“The poor are ever with us and Master Fluttock is an excellent gardener”.

 

 

 

 

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Tale of Two Cities

dinner-party-henry-coleBaroness Heskett-Elderberry is at table and the most esteemed of her acquaintances, indeed of her society, with her. The dining table is festooned with glistening silver and glimmering crystal, with bowls of fragrant rose petals and Ivy intertwined with fresh picked Lilies and festooned with bunches of grapes. It is a gathering many a gossip-monger and scandal-sheet-writer would wish to attend, for the Baroness does not sit alone. Close by her bare, wrinkled shoulder, sits the Baronness’s most intimate confidant, Auley McFadden the Head Ostler. They say she means to marry him? But who can tell? That a servant, a Scottish Ostler, should be seated high up table, comfortably ensconsed amongst the aristocracy of this sceptred isle is scandal enough. But Auley McFadden is not phased, he has sat at table amongst the great and the good of the land many a time. He did not blanche with fear the first time his lady insisted upon his presence, and he does not do so now, the Baroness amuses him and for the sake of her company he will gladly endure a legion of fools.

“She means to marry the blaggart!” mutters Lord Elderberry, he has passed on several delicately fragranced platefuls of of rabbit, duck and boiled ham (the Baronesse’s favourite dish) and now plunging his knife into the porcelain dish before him,he aggressively slices and dices his steamed turbot into tiny inedible pieces. His furrowed brow is darkened by a steadily building cloud of thunderous rage, such as to make the ragged children at his elbow tremble and shake and edge subtly away from him. Benjamin Disraeli, seated directly opposite him at table, raises one carefully delineated eyebrow, but Elderberry does not see him, intent as he is upon her ladyship’s prodigious fortune falling into the hands of one of the great unwashed again.

“Does she mean to marry the man?” enquires Doctor Livingstone who is somewhat bemused to find himself seated alongside a sooty faced child happily tucking into Salmon poached in a Gooseberry sauce. “M’Lady is patron of London’s ragged schools and the Temperance Society, I think not” opines M’Lord Palmerston,”Pass the Raspberry Fool!” Towards the top of the dining table M’Lady smiles and nods, her sharp. shrewd, eyes fastened all the while on the ragged school children positioned most conventionally toward the lower end of the dining room table. Near burned to death in the Tooley Street fire they were discretely deposited on her doorstep at the tradesmen’s entrance in the dead of night; because,quite simply, she is their patron and in her eyes the next best thing to a mother they have. Her behaviour is most scandalous in a society as hierachical in it’s moral character as hers is. Nonetheless here the children sit enjoying her ladyship’s largesse and here they are tolerated, for her ladyship is worth two million pounds at least, and she may do as she pleases.

“Is not this truly touching?” Lord Stanley smiles gently at the child who has impulsively seated himself upon his knee taking up his dessert spoon and plunging it into the plum pudding a servant has only just placed before his lordship. Indeed there are several children perched on various aristocratic laps and munching everything from roasted apples to slivers of pheasant. “Their school has been burnt down and since they must eat and sleep somewhere her ladyship has determined it should be here” whispers the Butler as he quietly uncorks a bottle of champagne, “Here? At Osbourne House?” placing the champagne at table alongside his Lordship the Butler discretely nods. Glancing up table Lord Stanley meets the needle sharp gaze of his favourite aunt and chuckles as she salutes her most favourite nephew with a glass of gooseberry juice.

“Is that not Lord Stanley?” asks the Marchioness of Frangebere gazing closely at the handsome young man four guests up, “It is” replies her husband frowning at his wife’s prodigious bosom (she has taken up her pince-nez and is peering through it intensely). “What’s he doing here? I see the musical presence is attendant also”  the Earl of Frangebere pauses mid-bite, turning to coldly examine the haughty profile of his wife,”The musical presence as you call it,formerly Miss Woodbine, is now Lady Stanley”

“I hear that alliance cost him a packet! Ten thousand pounds!” the Marquesse Frangere smiles sweetly across table toward Lord Stanley and just as sweetly inclines her head, the Earl of Frangere rolls his eyes, extraordinary! How on earth does she do it? “The Baroness has awarded him a considerable allowance…not that he needs it! Pass the Plum Pudding” the Marquesse flinches and thinks longingly of that most esteemed murderess (in her eyes) Mrs Manning.

“A toast! A toast!” exclaims the Scottish Ostler his brandy glass held aloft for the upteenth time, ” A toast to that generous purveyor of horse flesh! To the Baroness!”

“To the Baroness!” exclaims Doctor Livingstone, Mrs Livingstone, Benjamin Disraeli and fellow philanthropists, “To ‘er ladyship!” roar the servants and shriek the ragged children. Lord Stanley gets to his feet like everyone else but instead of raising his glass he sidles up the dining table toward the Ostler. For he senses from experience,that the toast is a mere precursor to some social embarassment and indeed he is not wrong for the drunken Ostler disappears speedily beneath the dining room table. The Head Footman is there first (along with the Butler) and as they swiftly ferry him from the celebrations Lord Stanley just as quickly takes his place. The Baroness appears not to note the disappearance of her old friend, everybody else pretends not to, after all she is worth two million pounds and she may do as she pleases.

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

The Musical Scuttle (Part 2)

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‘If my child lies dying (as poor Tom lay, with his white lips quivering, for want of better food than I could give him), does the banker bring the wine or broth that will save his life?’

– Mary Barton

“Are we in ‘eaven muthah?” the little boy asked wondrously, Martha Sitwell shook her head, she dabbed at her eyes and cheeks with a hanky, t’was all she could do to stop herself from bursting into tears,

“If ever I dies mutha an my soul is in good standing with Jehovah,he shall lift me gently into ‘is everlastin arms and t’will be such a place as this that he will bring me to! I know it!” he crumpled the last fragments of his third sugared bun into his mouth, and slid off his stool. Martha Sitwell half blushed with shame, for now there was food to be had little Martin had taken on the habit of eating like a pig at the trough. Cramming every pastry, pie, and pudding, quickly into his mouth, and then devouring it, as if at the next minute there might be none to be had. All fine and good on an ordinary work day, but today they had visitors.

“Well Martha Sitwell what think you?” Martha inclined her head shyly, she durst not look at the gentle eyed man on her best stool; the very fact of his presence made her nervous, as did the idea that she might wake up one morning and find this to be nought but a dream.

“Madame Sitwell speak! You ave a voice Madame! Use it!” Madame Le Breton furrowed her brows and adjusted her shawl irritably.

“T’is just as our Martin says” she murmured, “t’is like ‘eaven”

Madame Le Breton clapped her hands together in delight!

“C’est bien! Now I want ze grande tour! You will show me all you know and when I tell Maggie of all you show me she will be at peace!” Martin giggled, he clapped his plump little hands together with glee, Madame Le Breton noted the healthy flush in his cheeks, and the brightness of eye, indicating the positive effects of an abundance of fresh, healthy, air, combined with a hearty diet.

“Not you my child” admonished his mother, “Off to work with you!” smoothing out his newly starched smock and snatching up his ploughman’s lunch, Martin skipped merrily off to the Cotton Mill which lay just down the road from their little cottage.

Standing by the door Martha watched her son skip merrily to work and tried to recall the pale, wan, listless, child he had been, she could not. A profuse number of tears slid down her cheeks, clasping her worn hands to her sodden breast she turned suddenly to Mr Robert Owen, her benefactor and her son’s employer,

“I don’t know how to thank you sir and I have nought to give ye but these two hands, worn as they are!” Mr Owen shook his head,

“Here at New Lanark we prize happiness, health and dignity above all else. Are you happy Mrs Sitwell?” wiping her eyes she nodded, “Now are you healthy? Do you feel your dignity restored to you ?” again she nodded,”Then that is all we at New Lanark can ask, it is all we dare ask. I have spoken with Mrs Emilia Joseph, the school ma’am, she tells me that if you wish it, you may spend your days attending her at the village school”

“Oh sir!” cried Mrs Sitwell her face a-glow “I do wish it!”

“Quite so, tomorrow then at twelve?” he clasped her hands in his and smiling gently squeezed them, at which she burst into tears once more and had to be comforted by Madame Le Breton,

“What a philosopher! What a genius! Such kindness! Such generosity of spirit! All zee people fed! All zee people paid well! All zee people turning a profit! La! This is not genius! This is witchcraft! ‘Ow iz it possible madam?” Mrs Sitwell shook her head,

“I know not! I ain’t left the cottage since you an Lady Grid-Iron brung us ‘ere, I keeps thinking if I ever tries to leave the cottage it’ll go up in a puff of smoke an I’ll find myself back in London, in that ‘owse! The one Lord Grid-Iron owns” a cloud descended upon her brow, but it was soon gone, she smiled tremulously.

“Owned” Madame Le Breton corrected her,”Zat evil man is gone” or at least by tomorrow morning he would be she thought, “And your old life is over” she said, getting to her feet and extending a heavily beringed hand, “All my days I ave wanted to see what a peoples’ republic would truly look like, come, show me this wondrous place!”

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