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A GRUB-STREET POET.
Is there any thing known respecting a strange "madcap," one Robert Innes, who, according to a printed broadside, was a pauper in St. Peter's Hospital, 1787 ? He was in the habit of penning doggrel ballads and hawking them about for sale. Some of them have a degree of humor, and are, to a certain extent, valuable at the present time for their notices of passing events. In one of these now rare effusions, he styles himself “R. Innes, O.P.," and in explanation gives the following lines :
Some put unto their name A. M.,
And others put a D. and De,
I adds unto my name 0. P.
Master of Arts, sure I am not,
No Doctor, no Divine I be ;
Of the same clay are we all three.
LONDON STREET CHARACTERS.
Dickens's graphic description of the Court of Chancery, in his Bleak House, contains the following sketch :
Standing on a seat at the side of the hall, ... is a little mad old woman in a squeezed bonnet, who is always in court expecting some incomprehensible judgment to be given in her favor. Some say she really is, or was, a party to a suit; but no one knows for certain, because no one cares. She carries some small litter in a reticule, which she calls her documents: principally consisting of paper matches and dry lavender.
Was there any particular original for this character ? More than twenty years ago, a female of about fifty was a constant attendant on the Court of Queen's Bench in Banco. She was meanly but tidily dressed, quiet and unobtrusive in manners, but much gratified by notice from any barrister. It was said she had been ruined by a suit. Her thoughts seemed fixed upon the business of the day. “Will they take motions? Will it come on next ? I hope he will bring it on to-day !” but who was “ he," or what was “it,” could not be learnt; and when asked, she would pause as if to think, and, pointing to the bench, say, " That's Lord Tenterden." She would rise as if about to address the court, when the judges were going out, and look mortified, as if she felt neglected.
An old woman frequented Doctors' Commons about seven years ago. She appeared to listen to the arguments, but was réserved and mopish if spoken to. She often threw herself in the way of one of the leading advocates, and always addressed him in the same words:
I am virgo intacta." A poor female lunatic, who was called Rouge et noir, from her crape sables and painted cheeks, used to loiter every day about the Royal Exchange at four o'clock, and seemed to depend for subsistence upon the stray bounty of the "money-changers.” It was said that she had a brother who was hanged for forgery, and that this drove her mad.
Charles Lamb describes a character, whom it is also impossible to forget :
A well-known figure, or part of the figure of a man, who used to guide his upper half over the pavements of London, wheeling along with most ingenious celerity upon a machine of wood. ... He was of a robust make, with a florid sailor-like complexion, and his head was bare to the storm and sunshine. The accident which brought him low, took place during the riots of 1780.
His portrait is in Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum, vol. i. p. 331. Below it is “Samuel Horsey, aged fifty-five, a singular beggar in the streets of London.” The date of the engraving is August 30, 1803. The accompanying letter-press is as follows:
This person, who has so long past, that is to say, during nineteen years, attracted the notice of the public, by the severity of his misfortunes, in the loss of both his legs, and the singular means by which he removes himself from place to place, by the help of a wooden seat, constructed in the manner of a rocking-horse, and assisted by a pair of crutches, first met with his calamity by the falling of a piece of timber from a house at the lower end of Bow Lane, Cheapside. He is now fifty-five years of age, and commonly called the King of the Beggars : and as he is very corpulent, the facility he moves with is very singular. From his general appearance and complexion, he seems to enjoy a state of health remarkably good. The frequent obtrusion of a man naturally stout and well made, but now so miserably mutilated as he is, having excited the curiosity of great numbers of people daily passing through the most crowded thoroughfares of the metropolis, has been the leading motive of this account, and the striking representation of his person here given.
The likeness is very good. Among the stories told of him, one was that his ample earnings enabled him to keep two wives, and, what is more, to keep them from quarrelling. He presided in the evenings at a “ cadgers' club,” planted at the head of the table, with a wife on each side. This burly beggar had two daughters, to each of whom he is said to have given £500 on her wedding; and it was also said he left a handsome sum of money at his death.
About thirty years ago, there might be heard any morning in the smaller streets of “the city," a cry of “dolls' bedsteads, from a lean, lame man, on a crutch, who wore an apron, and carried miniature bedsteads for sale. Of this man it was generally reported, that he was implicated in the Cato street conspiracy, and turned king's evidence. What becomes of these street heroes ?
Do they die the death of common men—in bed, and with friends near them; or do they generally find their fate at last in the workhouse or the jail; and get buried no one knows when, or by whom, or where ?
We cannot agree with Dickens, that “no one knows for certain" about such persons," because no one cares. Indeed, his philosophy and practice are at variance in this matter. He makes his own sketch of “the little mad old woman,” because he feels that it will interest. How much more would the original, could we get at it! But the truth is, these people are as mysterious as the fireman's dog. They come like shadows, so depart;" leaving behind them on many minds ineffaceable impressions, and often survive the memory of a thousand things of real importance : which could hardly be, were there not some psychological force in these street characters--an inexplicable interest and attraction,
The “Jews-harp," or "Jews-trump," is said by several authors to derive its name from the nation of the Jews, and is vulgarly believed to be one of their instruments of music. Dr. Littleton renders Jews-trump by Sistrum Judaicum. But no such musical instrument is spoken of by any of the old authors that treat of the Jewish music. In fact, the Jews-harp is a mere boy's plaything, and incapable in itself of being joined either with a voice or any other instrument: and its present orthography is nothing more than a corruption of the French Jeu-trompe, literally, a toy trumpet. It is called jeu-trompe by Bacon, Jewtrump by Beaumont and Fletcher, and Jews-harp by Hackluyt. In a rare black-letter volume, entitled Newes from Scotland, 1591, there is a curious story of one Geilles Duncan, a noted performer on the “ Jews-harp,” whose performance seems not only to have met with the approval of a numerous audience of witches, but to have been repeated in the presence of royalty, and by command of no less a personage than the “Scottish Solomon," King James VI. Agnes Sampson being brought before the king's majesty and his council, confessed that
Upon the night of All-hallow-even last, shee was accompanied as well with the persons aforesaid, as also with a great many other witches, to the number of two hundredth; and that all they together went to sea, each one in a riddle or sive, and went into the same very substantially, with flaggons of wine, making merrie, and drinking by the way, in the same riddle or sives, to the Kirk of North Barrick in Lowthian; and that after they had landed, tooke handes on the lande and daunced this reill or short daunce, singing all with one voice
Commer goe ye before, commer goe ye:
At which time, she confessed that this Geilles Duncan (a servant girl) did goe before them, playing this reill or daunce uppon a small trumpe called a Jews-trumpe, until they entred into the Kirk of North Barrick. These confessions made the King in a wonderfull admiration, and sent for the said Geilles, Duncan, who upon the like trumpe did play the saide daunce before the Kinge's Majestie; whio in respect of the strangenes of these matters tooke great delight to be present at their examinations.
It may be as well to mention that in the Belgic or Low Dutch, from whence come many of our toys, a tromp is a rattle for children. Another etymon for Jews-harp is Jaws-harp, because the place where it is played upon is between the jaws.
The following are examples of hexameter verses in the Psalms :
Göd cãme | ūp with ā / shout: yurLörd with the / sound of ā trūmpēt. ||
The names of "Doctor Dove, of Doncaster," and his steed "Nobbs," must be familiar to all the admirers, in another word, to all the readers, of Southey's Doctor.