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I turned out of the lane into some branch alley, suddenly I came upon a foul iron grating, wide and partially lighted, and through the bars had a view of the Fleetditch, pouring its foul tributes to the Thames. It was really a sickening sight; disgusting objects in a thousand forms vexed the eye, and worried the nasal organs; yet this was once a fine clear adjunct of the river. Happily it was effectually covered over when the required space was obtained, arches were erected so as to get a good level, and an excellent road formed. The Corporation expressed their willingness to grant building leases on a fixed plan. A few houses were erected in pursuance, but then the whole scheme failed; and though public notices inviting tenders are continually exhibited, on boards which have rotted out more than once, the road, now become a great thoroughfare, remains in all its unsightly nakedness—here half-destroyed brick or wooden bulks, there a carpet-ground in a hole; a church placed apparently in the oddest manner, a Roman Catholic
a chapel, schools, and refuges, in admired confusion.
Why such a tempting site should continue so long unremunerative in the centre of London, while builders are found eagerly to appropriate every opening for brick and mortar in the most unpromising localities, is a profound mystery. Are the terms extravagantly high? There seems no other way of solving the difficulty. This is the more to be regretted, as the completion of the street would be a great metropolitan improvement. Have your readers noticed the grand view of the dome and campaniles of St. Paul's Cathedral obtained on the decline of the new road, as as you turn form Exmouth-street into Coppice-row?
Waste place No. 3 will be found in the deserted plain of Smithfield. The
and enclosures for beasts, sheep, and pigs remain in statu quo, but the rude genius of the
place has departed,—the bank shutters are closed—the public-houses look empty and forlorn—the hospital is terribly cut down in the item of its accidents; and could kind-hearted Minstrel Rahere see the queer angular building which has succeeded his Spital, he would look for the line of beauty in vain. " What shall we do with it?" is in this instance too a hard problem. The administrators at St. Bartholomew's want a garden for the patients; the Corporation are clamorous for a dead meat market; and the Government oscillates between the two. Meantime, a vast extent of ground is worse than useless; the inhabitants of Cow-cross and Long-lane grow melancholy; anything-even a new Cock-lane ghost-would be an
agreeable novelty; a mad bull or two would be thought a treat, and they would rejoice on waking some Monday morning to find it high market again.*
* Waste place No. 2 is at present looking up. No street has been found possible above ground, but a railway is progressing in the depths below. The dead meat market, only anticipated for waste place No. 3, will soon become a fact. The glories of Warwick-lane and Newgate Market are departing, and we may say to the carcase dealers, “Rest, perturbed spirits !"
PETER STOKES, THE FLYING PIEMAN
OF HOLBORN HILL
DURING the early years of Louis XVI., a very remarkable hawker of savoury patties might be almost constantly seen in the streets of Paris ; noble by birth, reckless extravagance had reduced him to poverty while he was yet in the prime of life, but his dress was still fastidiously elegant, and while standing, basket in hand, on the steps of the Palais Royal, he wore round his neck the decoration of the order of St. Croix. Sterne had seen him, and declares that his manners and address were those of a man of high rank. That auther, too, in his “Sentimental Journey,” recites a beautiful story of a young nobleman, who being in pecuniary distress, determined to seek fortune as a merchant in the colonies, and realizing large wealth, returned to his native district, and publicly demanded from the chief magistrate a sword of honour which he had left in his keeping. When narrowly examining the blade, he noticed a spot of rust, and a tear involuntarily fell upon it as he said, “I shall find some means to get it off.”
The narrative appeals strongly to our sympathies, and my recollections of Peter Stokes, though in many respects ludicrous, are not without pathos,
When I was a youngster, the steep roadway from Hatton Garden to Fleet Market was highly attractive to me on account of the Flying Pieman, though he did not vend pies, but a kind of baked plum-pudding, which he offered smoking hot. He was a slim, active, middle-sized man, probably about forty years old. He always wore a black suit, scrupulously brushed, dress coat and vest, kneebreeches, stout black silk stockings, and shoes with steel buckles—then rather fashionable. His shirt, remarkably well got up, had a wide frill, surmounted by a spotless white cravat. He never wore either hat or cap; his hair, cropped very close, was plentifully powdered; and he was decorated with a delicate lawn apron which hardly reached to his knees. In his right hand he held a small circular tray or board, just large enough to receive an appetiteprovoking pudding about three inches thick; this was divided into twelve slices, which he sold at a penny a slice. A broad blunt spatula, brilliantly bright, which he carried in his left hand, enabled him to dispense his sweets without ever touching them. His countenance was open and agreeable, expressive of intellect and moral excellence. Precisely as St. Andrew's clock struck twelve at noon, Peter Stokes turned out of Fetter-lane with his tempting pastry, and from that moment up to four o'clock he was incessantly occupied in a rapid transit from the lane to Ely-place, thence to Thavies-inn, and across to Field-lane, or from Hatton Garden to Fleet Market, never pausing longer than would enable him to deliver a slice of pudding to some expectant customer, and shouting without pause, "Buy, buy, buy,” adroitly darting from side to side, never lingering till the road was clear, but piloting his way between carts, waggons, and coaches, and proffering his pudding to all passers, with the not unmusical accompaniment of “Buy, buy, buy.” If any peripatetic pilgrim felt his longing for a slice overcome him, as Peter flashed
between a dray and a gentleman's carriage, his penny must be ready and held up, or the man would be a hundred yards off in a few seconds. His board was often cleared in a single: run between the Garden and the Market. The ringing syllables, “Buy, buy, buy,” were repeated unconsciously over a clean tray, and he would dive out of sight for a fresh supply before you quite understood where he was. On a fine day he could dispose of fifty rounds of pudding between twelve and four o'clock. Nor were his customers exclusively children or idlers; well-to-do City magnates would stop and discuss a slice. It was credibly reported that Alderman Harmer, going to his office, felt hungry, and paid his penny. Peter was a great favourite with ladies. If they were able to resist the appetising odour of the pudding, they could not possibly refrain from patronising his silken calves and bright buckles. A common councilman's widow was so smitten with his genteelly powdered pate that she invested twopence in his plums, but, when she expected thanks, heard nothing but “Buy, buy, buy,” several streets off. From Michaelmas to Christmas, and from New Year to Lady Day, were the times of his briskest trade. He seldom came abroad in a confirmed wet day, and never when it rained 6 cats and dogs ;” but in wholesome, frosty seasons, or even in foggy November mornings, he was always busy, his bright spatula and smoking board peering through the mist, or alluring through the freezing air, to the neverceasing tune of “Buy, buy, buy.” In general, the glow of satisfied industry lit up his face; but occasionally a solemn, cogitative expression stole over his features, and the redness and moisture of his eyelids indicated the presence of tears; but this was unusual, and they were dashed away in a moment. Neither wife nor child ever appeared in the street with him. Was he a bachelor ? You shall hear.