Tuesday 29 June 2010


And, since we've had werewolves and vampires this month, it seems fitting to end with goblins, or, at least, goblin men and their fruit, which is largely to be avoided (courtesy of Christina Rossetti).


MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries-
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries--
All ripe together
In summer weather--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy;
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye,
Come buy, come buy."

Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger-tips.
"Lie close," Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"
"Come buy," call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
"O! cried Lizzie, Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men."
Lizzie covered up her eyes
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
"Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds' weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes."
"No," said Lizzie, "no, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us."
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat's face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat's pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry-scurry.
Lizzie heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
"Come buy, come buy."
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
"Come buy, come buy," was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr'd,
The rat-paced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried "Pretty Goblin" still for "Pretty Polly";
One whistled like a bird.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
"You have much gold upon your head,"
They answered altogether:
"Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore,
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away,
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone.

Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
"Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the moonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so."
"Nay hush," said Laura.
"Nay hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more," and kissed her.
"Have done with sorrow;
I'll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons, icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink,
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap."

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down, in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fallen snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars beamed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.

Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.

At length slow evening came--
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: "The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep."
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.

And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fallen, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
"Come buy, come buy,"
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

Till Lizzie urged, "O Laura, come,
I hear the fruit-call, but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glow-worm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark;
For clouds may gather even
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?"
Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
"Come buy our fruits, come buy."
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root:
She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;
But peering thro' the dimness, naught discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent 'til Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for balked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain,
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
"Come buy, come buy,"
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay, and burn
Her fire away.

One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.
Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care,
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy."
Beside the brook, along the glen
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her,
But feared to pay too dear,
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter-time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter-time.

Till Laura, dwindling,
Seemed knocking at Death's door:
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse,
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook,
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter-skelter, hurry-skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes, --
Hugged her and kissed her;
Squeezed and caressed her;
Stretched up their dishes,
Panniers and plates:
"Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and suck them,
Pomegranates, figs."

"Good folk," said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie,
"Give me much and many"; --

Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
"Nay, take a seat with us,
Honor and eat with us,"
They answered grinning;
"Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavor would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us."
"Thank you," said Lizzie; "but one waits
At home alone for me:
So, without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee."
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously, --
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire, --
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee, --
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tear her standard down.

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in;
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syruped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot.
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple.
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.

In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore through the furze,
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse, --
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear;
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

She cried "Laura," up the garden,
"Did you miss me ?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men."

Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
"Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruined in my ruin;
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?"
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.

Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame,
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like a foam-topped water-spout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life ?

Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves,
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray,
Her breath was sweet as May,
And light danced in her eyes.

Days, weeks, months,years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat,
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town;)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
"For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands."

More Gloomy Words

And here's another by Coventry Patmore, better known as the author of The Angel in the House.


All night fell hammers, shock on shock;
With echoes Newgate's granite clang'd:
The scaffold built, at eight o'clock
They brought the man out to be hang'd.
Then came from all the people there
A single cry, that shook the air;
Mothers held up their babes to see,
Who spread their hands, and crow'd for glee;
Here a girl from her vesture tore
A rag to wave with, and join'd the roar;
There a man, with yelling tired,
Stopp'd, and the culprit's crime inquired;
A sot, below the doom'd man dumb,
Bawl'd his health in the world to come;
These blasphemed and fought for places;
Those, half-crush'd, cast frantic faces,
To windows, where, in freedom sweet,
Others enjoy'd the wicked treat.
At last, the show's black crisis pended;
Struggles for better standings ended;
The rabble's lips no longer curst,
But stood agape with horrid thirst;
Thousands of breasts beat horrid hope;
Thousands of eyeballs, lit with hell,
Burnt one way all, to see the rope
Unslacken as the platform fell.
The rope flew tight; and then the roar
Burst forth afresh; less loud, but more
Confused and affrighting than before.
A few harsh tongues for ever led
The common din, the chaos of noises,
But ear could not catch what they said.
As when the realm of the damn'd rejoices
At winning a soul to its will,
That clatter and clangour of hateful voices
Sicken'd and stunn'd the air, until
The dangling corpse hung straight and still.
The show complete, the pleasure past,
The solid masses loosen'd fast:
A thief slunk off, with ample spoil,
To ply elsewhere his daily toil;
A baby strung its doll to a stick;
A mother praised the pretty trick;
Two children caught and hang'd a cat;
Two friends walk'd on, in lively chat;
And two, who had disputed places,
Went forth to fight, with murderous faces.

Gloomy Words

I've been reading the very occasional piece of Victorian poetry recently, and I like the grim stuff the best. Here's In the Great Metropolis by Arthur Hugh Clough:


Each for himself is still the rule
We learn it when we go to school
The devil take the hindmost, O!

And when the schoolboys grow to men,
In life they learn it o’er again
The devil take the hindmost, O!

For in the church, and at the bar,
On ’Change, at court, where’er they are,
The devil takes the hindmost, O!

Husband for husband, wife for wife,
Are careful that in married life
The devil takes the hindmost, O!

From youth to age, whate’er the game,
The unvarying practice is the same
The devil take the hindmost, O!

And after death, we do not know,
But scarce can doubt, where’er we go,
The devil takes the hindmost, O!
Ti rol de rol, ti rol de ro,
The devil take the hindmost, O!

Sunday 20 June 2010

Cabs and Cabmen

Another article from Chambers, on the subject of cabs:
At no time were cabman a popular class in London. Since the opening of the International Exhibition, they have become more unpopular than ever. Their life is a hard one; they constantly incline to take over-liberal views of diistance; and when a fare is refractory, they are anythhing but nice about the choice of language in enforcing extortionate demands. We know from the experience of 'strikes' that mechanics go to great lengths occasionally on a question of wages; but when once the price at which they are to be paid is fixed, and they assent to it, they never think of demanding more so long aa the particular rate of payment remains in force. It is not so with the cabman. He has his ostensible strike now and then; but, in point of fact, he indulges in one continual, though covert resistance to his employers - the public. He considers himself an ill-used man if he is paid only his fare. The person is an impostor who tenders it - 'a cove as ought to walk, and not be bilking cabman.' This system of abuse succeeds, or the public are more generous in their dealings with cabmen than with any other class of the working community, or there is a general feeling that the scale of fares is an insufficient one; for the Jehus themselves admit that in nineteen cases out of twenty they receive more than their legal due. They go further, and tell you that if such were not the case, the occupation 'would not be worth a follorin' on.'
     As the riding population know little more about the matter than what they gather from the payment of fares, the strong language of those to whom the money is paid, and the reports of cases in the police courts, it may not be out of place to state a few facts connected with the working of the cab-system. Of 'four-wheelers' and 'Hansoms,' there are nearly five thousand in London. Each cab is obliged to have a number for which the owner pays one shilling a day. Thus, if the cab is licensed to ply on Sundays as well as week-days, seven shillings a week are paid for the licence; but if only a week-day licence iss required, six shillings is the amount. The licensed owner of a cab is liable for any infraction of the law committed by means of the vehicle. The licence-duty is paid at Somerset Housse. Any person applying for permission to drive a cab plying for hiree must get a certain form filled up. On presenting this at Scotland Yard, a badge and a book of fares are given to him. For the former, he pays five shillings; for the latter, half-a-crown. In addition, he is taxed to the amount of five shillings annually, so long as he remains a driver. A driver may not lend his badge to any other person. It is clear that if he were permitted to do so, there would be an end of responsibility in case of misconduct.
    A new four-wheel cab costs about forty pounds; a second-hand one may be had for ten or twelve pounds; but any owner who can afford it, thinks it the better economy to purchase a new article. A new Hansom may be had for about thirty-five pounds; but if it be a 'spicey' one, and made to order, it will cost as much as a four--wheeeler. A well-made cab will run for about twelve months without requiring any repair, except in case of accident. At the end of that time, probably it will want new tires on the wheels. The tires on the front wheels wear out sooner than those on the hind wheels. A set of four tires costs about four-and-twenty shillings. When the London season is over, an aged or 'stale' horse, that will do very well for a four-wheel cab, may be got in London for ten or twelve pounds. Those cab-owners who have a little capital generally purchase young horses in Ireland or at fairs in this country.
     For a Hansom, quite a different style of horse is required. If he have no height, 'blood,' and action, the whole concern will look worse than the shabbiest of four-wheel cabs. Hence the owners of Hansoms go to a different market. Tattersall's is their ground. They purchase racers and hunters who have done thier worl, and who, though still showy, are sold without a warranty. Such animals would not do for four-wheelers. The class of work done by each description of cab is different. The four-wheelers go in for long distance, and more than two passengers; the Hansoms for short fares and one or two riders. There is to some extent an impression - arising, no doubt, from the 'large' manner of the men and the mettlesome appearance of their animals - that the drivers of Hansom receive highher fares than those of their more humble-looking competitors on four wheels.  Experienced men in the trade say that this is not the case. For twon work, the Hansom has the advantage. In the city and at the west end, they receive three fares for every one picked up by a four-wheeler; but at the railways and in general family hire, the latter 'beat them to bits.' The relative advantages may be summed up thus: The cabs on four wheels get fewer jobs, but larger fares; the Hansoms do shorter distances, bur are hired more frequently. A cab of either kind cannot be well worked without a couple of horses. There are men who have only a single horse, but they are obliged to work at a great disadvantage. They must be very economical of their horse-power, and the system on which they act is to pull up on the nearest  'rank' after discharging their fare, so that they may goo over as little ground as possible, when no earning money. Those who have two horses, usually take out one in the morning, and work it up to three or four o'clock in the afternoon; put it up then, and take out the other for the evening; or give each horse a rest every alternate date. Owners of a single cab are, in nearly every instance, their own drivers; and they are the most steady and civil men connected witht the occupation. If they are not sober and careful of their horses and cab, they cannot make a living out of the business. It is your mere driver, generally, who is reckless and a rogue; but it is right to say that there are very many exceptions.
       The system on which these men work is a bad one and goes far to account for the numerous police-court cases in which cabmen figure as defendants. They are like the unfortunate organ-grinders; they do not receive wages from their masters, but ppay them so much a day. In order that this sum and the driver's own profit may be secured, horses and the public are made victims. A careful owner, driving his own cab and keeping a pair of horses, calculates on earning fifteen or sixteen shillings a day tthroughout the whole year, except during the autumn vacation and the two or three weeks after Christmas. These are his dull times. The same amount is about the sum paid by a driver for the hire of a cab and two horses. This pays the large cab-owner very well, even though the horses be overworked. The driver has no interest in easing the animals; or obtaining a good character for the owner: his object is to get as many fares as he can in the day, and bully his riders out of as much money as possible. These men drink a good deal, at their own expense and are frequently 'treated' by their customers. They go through much hardship in the way of exposure to wet and cold, and long waits on the ranks. To these causes may be ascribed the habits of dissipation into which too many of them sink. It is to be hoped that the efforts of Lord Shaftesbury and other philanthropists, who have turned their attention to the establishment of cabmen's clubs, may work a reformation.
    Cab-horses are fed well on good oats and chopped clover. If they were not , they would very soon be unfit for work. To keep one, costs about fifteen shillings a week; and a cab-owner who is his own driver and who receives five or six pounds a week, calculates his profits - allowing for wear and tear of  cab and horse, and stable expenses - at from two pounds ten shillings to ten pounds, for the six days: no an inordinate profit surely, considering how hard he works, and tthe capital which he has embarked in his horse and rolling stock. A great proportion of the small cab-owners do not work their cabs on Sunday, concurring as they do with Mr Bianconi, the extensive Irish cab-proprietor, that giving horses one day's rest in the week is a saving of money in the long-run, to those who have purchased the animals, and will have to replace them when used up. The night-cabs are worked by the worst description of horses: there is scarcely one of them that is no spavine or partially blind or both. To see one whose fore-legs are not looped and palsied from falling down and breaking his knees, is an exceptional curiosity;. No cab-horses are worked day and night. Many cabs are. Seven shillings a night is considered a suffficient payment by a driver for the hire of a horse and cab. In some cities, Dublin, for instance, the fares between twelve at night and six in the morning are double. In London, this is not the case; and it sems a hardship on a cabman that he should be obliged to take a rider at sixpence a mile, within the four-mile radius, in the middle of a cold and wet winter's night, when he has not the least chance of a return fare.
     At all the gret railway stations there are whhat are called 'privileged cabs.' The railway companies admit a certain number of cabs to take up their position on the rank outside the platform, and await the arrival of the trains. For this privilege each cab pays a sum, varying at the different stations, of from one-and-sixpence to three shillings a week. The company keep an inspector of cabs, a policeman to take down the number of each privileged vehicle as it leaves the station with its fare, and a book in which the numbers of all the cabs and the names of their owners and drivers are recorded. The number kept in this book is not that issued witht the licence at Somerset House, but one painted on the side of the cab in proximity with the initials of the company. Passengers arriving by trains are afforded protection for their luggage and a precaution against imposition by the regulationds in respect of the privileged cabs. As has just been observed, a policeman at the exit-gate takes down the number of each cab as it passes out; and in addition the driver must every evening fill up a return of the number of fares he has had during the day, and the places to which he has conveyed them. When the privileged cabs have all been hired up, the cabs on the rank nearest to the station are admitted to the railway on the a la queue principle.
    I have found no cabman to deny that the Exhibition enormously increased his profits. Owners charged drivers as much as one pound a day and more for the hire of a cab; but the latter at that time were taking their two pounds ten shillings and three pounds a day, and only for what they call the tyranny and worry of the police-constables at South Kensington, they would have made a great deal more. They state that as soon as the police observed an argument as to the amount of the fare, they would step forward, ask the distance travelled, tell the rider the proper amount, and order the cabman off. No higher testimony, can be paid to the efficiency of the officers whom the commissioners of police stationed at the Exhibition. Men who drive their own horses have no reaped quite so large a harvest, but their profits have been proportionally increased. Cabmen do not like lady-fares; they have a horror of an 'unprotected female;' because, if any dispute arises, a sympathetic crowd assembles, and imposition is stopped. The theory of cab-management in the metropolis on the part of the authorities is admirable - in the regulations regarding the deposit in the police-stations of left property, for example - but in pracctice it is found to be very defective. A cabman may give you all sorts of insolence, and make off before you have had time to take his number; or you may not have a pencil about you. In Paris, the driver must hand you a ticket on which his number is inscribed, when he takes you up. The introduction of that plan would be a great improvement here. On the other hand, something may be said for the cabbies. For instance, is sixpence sufficient payment for the carriage of two passengers, and as much luggage as they can stow inside, for a full mile from a railway station, at which man, horse, and cab have been standing for an hour or two awaiting the arrival of a train?
 Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, 1862

Saturday 19 June 2010

London Cab Reform

I'm going to write an article on London cabs and cab-drivers soon, so expect the odd addition to the website. Here's a nice article:

If John Bull were not, with all his grumbling, one of the most patient animals in existence, he could never have endured so long the cabs which he has to employ for the conveyance of his person through the streets of the metropolis. They are very poorly furnished and nasty, far below similar conveyances in any continental city with which we are acquainted. Greater fault still is to be found with the drivers, a large proportion of whom are so prone to overreach, that it is hardly possible to settle for their fares without a squabble. Our experience leads us to say, that at an average a stranger pays 30 per cent. above the proper sum, besides having his temper in almost every instance ruffled to some extent by the sense of having no adequate protection from the rudeness of this class of men. For a lady, there seems to be no chance of escape but by the alternative of some enormous over-charge. Altogether this department of public economy in London is in a most unsatisfactory state. Most people avoid using these street vehicles whenever thhey can, and this is especially true of strangers. We can state as a fact that a provincial gentleman of our accquaintance is accustomed to take the inconvenience of the cab-system into account in deliberating whether he shall have a month of Londdon life or not. It is one of the repelling considerations, to a degree that the Londoners themselves are not aware of.
    In an age of such exquisite contrivance and precision in mechanical and commercial matters, it might have been anticipated that the bad system of London cabs could not long survive. All dishonest businesses write their own doom. Those only thrive which sincerely seek the good of the public. Accordingly, it is not surprising, at a time when one-and-a-half per cent. is a fact in banking, to find two large and powerful companies getting up to supersede the bad, old, dear, cheating cabs with a new and civilised set. It is proposed by one of these bodies to 'provide for the public a superior class of carriages, horses, and drivers, at reduced and definite fares; to afford the utmost possible security for property; ans especially prompt and easy redress of complaints.' With better vehicles at three-fourths of the present charges - namely 6d. a mile - and these to be settled for in a manner which will preclude disputes, this company deserves, and will be sure to obtain, the public patronage. One good feature of the proposed arrangements will, we think, be highly satisfactory: the companyh will form a sufficient magistracy in itself to give quick and easy redress in the case of any wrong. But, indeed, from the precautions taken as to the employment of drivers, and the hold which the company will have over them, through the medium of guarantee and their own deposits in a benefit-fund, it seems to us that the good conduct of the men towards their 'fares' must be effectually secured. The other company proposes to have two classes of vehicles - one at 8d. and the other at 4d. a mile; and it contemplates the use of a mechanism for indicating the distance passed over. We most earnestly hope that both companies will succeed in establishing themselves and carrying an improvement so important to the public into effect.

Chambers Edinburgh Journal, 1852

Friday 11 June 2010


Ok, having found a nice piece on vampyres, I had to find a companion magazine piece on werewolves ... and I wasn't disappointed ...


THE idea of a being, half wolf, half man, and possessing also many demoniacal attributes, is a very curious piece of old-world superstition still to be found in very many European countries, and strengthened, no doubt, by the discovery, at times, of children who have been carried off and cared for by wolves who preferred the role of foster-mother to that of devourer—an occurrence of which there are frequent proofs on record. The wild and howling night winds, the Maruts that gave the name to our too familiar nightmare, may have given the first notion of demon wolves to the trembling listener as they passed shrieking by his solitary tent or hut. As these winds also represented the Pitris, the good patres or fathers, and the followers of Indra, the transition of thought by which the spirit-wolf and the human form became amalgamated is easily imagined.
    There appears to be plenty of evidence that, at different times, a form of madness has broken out by which individuals have fancied themselves to be turned into wolves. Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, describes this disease, which he styles Lycanthropia, as "when men run howling about graves and fields in the night, and will not be persuaded but that they are wolves or some such beasts." He quotes authority for many instances; one, among the rest, of "a poor husbandman that still hunted about graves, and kept in churchyards, of a pale, black, ugly, and fearful look. Such belike," continues the garrulous old writer, "such, belike, or little better, were King Proteus' daughters, that thought themselves kine; and Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel, as some interpreters hold, was only troubled with this kind of madness."
    King James the First also speaks in a somewhat similar manner in the First chapter of the Third Book of Daemonologie. Pliny states that men were changed into wolves, and again into men; Pausanias narrates a history of a man who remained a wolf for ten years; and Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, describes the transition of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, who was turned into a wolf as a punishment for offering human flesh to the gods.
    A legend also speaks of one of the family of Anthos, who, selected by lot, proceeded to the shores of a lake in Arcadia, where, after suspending his garments to the branches of an oak, he plunged in and swam across. Changing into a wolf, he was condemned to wander for nine years ; but should he have abstained from feeding on human flesh, he was permitted to resume his former shape by swimming back again, and regaining his clothes which were still in the tree.
    Herodotus states that the Neurians became wolves for a few days once a year, and then returned to the form of men. Virgil and Propertius give the same trans..formation, and Petronius tells a story related by Niceros at Primalchio's banquet in which he (Niceros) set off to walk in the early morning accompanied by a "valiant soldier, a sort of grim water-drinking Pluto. About cockcrow,when the moon was shining as bright as midday, we came among the monuments. My friend began addressing himself to the stars, but I was rather in a mood to sing or to count them, and when I turned to look at him—lo ! he had stripped himself, and laid down his clothes near him. My heart was in my nostrils, and I stood like a dead man ; but he made a mark round his clothes and on a sudden became a wolf. Do not think I jest ; I would not lie for any man's estate. But to return to what I was saying. When he became a wolf, he began howling, and fled into the woods. At first I hardly knew where I was, and afterwards, when I went to take up his clothes, they were turned into stone. Who then died with fear but I? Yet I drew my sword, and went cutting the air right and left, till I  reached the villa of my sweetheart." Here he is told that a wolf had been at the farm and worried the cattle, but that a slave had run a lance into his neck, so he sets off home as fast as possible. " When I came to the  spot where the clothes had turned into stone, I could find nothing but blood. But when I got home I found my friend the soldier in bed, bleeding at the neck like an ox, and a doctor dressing his wound. I then knew he was a turnskin (versipellis), nor would I ever have broken bread with him again—no, not if you had killed me."
    The title " turnskin " is also in accordance with the Norwegian idea of the werewolf, as the change has always been supposed to have been effected by means of a skin robe, or sometimes a girdle, which could be put on or taken off. In the Middle Ages the bandit or outlaw was said to wear a caput lupinum, or as it was called in England, wulfesheofod. (wolf's head). King Harald Harfagr had a body of men called Ulfhednar (wolf-coated) to distinguish them from the Berseker (bearskin shirted), and these men, according to Hertz, were originally supposed to put on the strength and fierceness of the animal with his skin. The myth of the giant wolf Fenris, the offspring of evil Loki and the giantess Angurboda, who created such a disturbance among the gods in Asgard, gave a semi-religious authority to the man-wolf idea in Scandinavia.
    Professor de Gubernatis, in his excellent volume on Zoological Mythology, mentions a she-wolf in an Esthonian story who comes up on hearing the cry of a child, and gives it milk to nourish it. "The story tells us that the shape of a wolf was assumed by the mother of the child herself, and that, when she was alone, she placed her wolf disguise upon a rock, and appeared as a woman to feed the child. The husband, informed of this, orders that the rock be heated, so that when the wolf's skin is again placed upon it, it may be burnt, and he may thus be able to recognise and take back to himself his wife. The she-wolf that gives her milk to the
twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, in Latin epic tradition, was no less a woman than the nurse-wolf of the Esthonian story."
    In Germany the transformation is believed to take place by means of a belt made of wolf-skin, and should this be unfastened or cut, the man-wolf immediately loses his wolf nature. Mr. Kelly, in his Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk Lore, speaks of these girdles being once for sale. "A sale," says he, "was made by order of the authorities, of a heap of old things that lay in a room in the Erichsburg. Among them were old implements of the chase which had been taken from poachers, and also some werewolf girdles. The Amtmann's man, having a mind to try the effect of the latter, buckled one of them on, was immediately turned into a wolf, and started off for Hunnesruck. The Amtmann rode after him, and cutting at his back with a sword, severed the girdle, whereupon the man resumed his proper shape." Another story is told of a little boy who put on his father's girdle, and was transformed. His father overtook him and unfastened it. The boy afterwards said that, the moment he put on the girdle, he became ravenously hungry. A common German story, also quoted by Mr. Kelly, is that of a charcoal-burner, who, believing his two companions to be asleep, fastened his wolf-belt round him, became a wolf, and devoured a foal. His comrades, who had only been feigning sleep, had observed him, and when, on their way home, he complained of an internal pain, they told him it was hardly to be wondered at when a man had a whole foal inside him. "Had you said that to me out yonder," replied the werewolf, "you would never have reached home again;" and saying this he disappeared, and was not again seen.
    Another German tale tells of a farmer who was driving his wife through a wood, and who suddenly alighted, telling his wife to drive on, and to throw her apron to any beast that might attack her. She was attacked by a wolf, who tore her apron into shreds, and then retreated. Upon her husband's return she saw some threads of her apron sticking between his teeth, and knew he was a werewolf. Iron or steel thrown or held over a werewolf is, in Germany, supposed to split the wolf-skin, so that the man comes out through the forehead. Loups garoux are still supposed to linger in some parts of France, but daring the sixteenth century many people were burnt to death, having been found guilty of assuming the form and habits of the werewolf. In Portugal, the legend of the Lobis-homem still survives, but it appears to be often confused with another superstition, that of the demon horse, the phooka of Irish tradition.
    The following Polish stories are given in Naake's translation of Slavonic fairy-tales. Some young people were dancing and enjoying themselves on a hill near the Vistula, when an enormous wolf seized one of the handsomest girls, and was dragging her away. Some of the youths followed and overtook them, when the wolf dropped the girl and stood at bay. As they had no fire-arms the young men stood irresolute, or hurried back for weapons, so the wolf again seized the girl, and bore her into the forest. Fifty years passed, and another feast was taking place on the same hill, when an old man approached. The people invited him to join them, but he sat silently and gloomily down. An old peasant entered into conversation, and was astonished when the stranger hailed him by name as his elder brother, who had been lost fifty years before. The aged stranger then told the wondering peasants that he had been changed into a wolf by a witch, and had carried away his betrothed from that hill during a festival, that they had only lived together in the forest for a year, and then she had died. He showed them his hands covered with blood, and said : "From that moment, savage and furious, I attacked every one and destroyed every thing I fell in with. It is now four years since I again changed to human shape. I have wandered from place to place. I wished to see you all once more, to see the but and village where I was born and grew up a man. After that—ah, woe is me Fly, fly from me. I shall become a wolf again!" He was instantly transformed, howled piteously, and disappeared in the forest for ever.
    The second story is of a peasant with whom a witch fell in love. As he slighted her, she told him that when next he chopped wood in the forest he would become a wolf. He laughed at her threats, but they were fulfilled. He wandered about for some years, but would never eat raw flesh, preferring to frighten away the
shepherds, and eat their provisions. At last he woke one day from sleep, and found himself once more a man. He immediately ran to his old home, only to find his parents dead, his friends dead or removed, and his betrothed married and with four children. In this and the preceding tale there is a trace of the Rip van Winkle
incident and its older original. A third story is also given, but space will not allow its transcription.
    In the story of the Léshy, or wood demon, given in Ralston's Russian Folk Tales, there is a strong resemblance to a portion of the former tale, which might suggest that the Léshy and the werewolf
were not unconnected. The wood demon carries a girl off into the forest, where she lives with him until he is shot by a hunter. The story of The Treasure in the same volume speaks of a goat-skin uniting with the body of a pope or priest, so that he could not take it off, thus becoming half animal as in the tradition of the wolf-man.
    Dasent, in the introduction to his Popular Tales from the Norse, shows that the belief in werewolves was common in Sweden in the sixteenth century. Going back into mythical times, he states that "the Volsunga Saga expressly states of Sigmund and Sinfistli that they became werewolves, which, we may remark, were Odin's  sacred beasts . . . The wolf's skin ... was assumed and laid aside at pleasure." In Morte d'Arthur (Book xix,, chap. 11) mention is made of "Sir Marrok, the good knyghte, that was betrayed with his wyf, for she made hym seuen yere a werewolf." In a Latin poem of the twelfth or thirteenth century (printed in the Reliquim Antiquae, ii., 103) there are some lines describing men in Ireland who could change themselves into wolves and worry sheep, and who, if they were wounded in their wolf form, retained the wound on regaining human shape.
    Sir Frederick Madden, in his Note on the Word Werwolf (William of Palerne, Edit. 1832), states: "In The Master of Game, a treatise on hunting composed for Henry the Fifth, is the following passage, 'And somme ther ben ... that eten children and men, and eten non other fleische from that tyme that thei ben acharmed with mannes fleisch ... And thei ben cleped werewolves, for that men shulden be war of them.'" The ancient romance, to which this was a modern note, was translated from the French at the command of Sir Humphrey de Bohun, about A.D. 1350, and gives a curious history of a werewolf. Alphouns, eldest son of the King of Spain and heir to the crown, was bewitched by his stepmother Braunde (who wished her own son, Braundinis to be the heir), and turned into a werewolf. This wolf carried away from Palermo William, the child of Embrons, King of Apulia, swam the Straits of Messina with the boy, and took him to a forest near Rome, not doing him any injury. The wolf went to obtain food for the child, and, in his absence, a cowherd found the boy, took him home, and adopted him. William grows up, and is given by the Emperor of Rome to his daughter as a page. The romance deals with many adventures; but, at last, William ,and the Emperor's daughter, Melior, become lovers and elope together dressed in the skins of two white bears. They wander until they find a den, where they are hidden. When they are suffering from hunger, the werewolf finds them, and brings them cooked beef and two flasks of wine, of which he had robbed two men. The Emperor of Rome, who had betrothed Melior to Partenedon, son of the Emperor of Greece, still pursues the wandering lovers, who are guided and helped by the werewolf. After many adventures, they reach Palermo, which they find besieged by the Spaniards. William, who has a werewolf painted on his shield, takes the King and Queen of Spain prisoners, and compels Queen Braunde to reverse her enchantment, and to restore the werewolf to his original human form.
   Wolves have been so long extinct in England that it is hardly to be expected that there should now linger any tradition of them, but the old werewolf idea seems to have been closely allied with the horrible vampyre. Indeed, so prominent a personage as one of our kings —King John himself—is said, in an old Norman chronicle, to have wandered in this shape after death. The monks of Worcester were compelled, by the frightful noises proceeding from his grave, to dig up his body and cast it out of consecrated ground.
    Some old story of a man possessed by the wolf-demon may perhaps have suggested to Shakespeare the outburst of Gratiano to Shylock, who was so vindictively pursuing his victim to obtain his flesh:
    Thy currish spirit
Govern'd a wolf ; who, hang'd for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And . . . . . . .
Infused itself in thee.
    In Normandy, a hundred years ago, the vanipyre-like Loup Garou was supposed to be the re-animated corpse of one who had died in mortal sin, and had risen from the grave to prey upon mankind. First, the corpse began to gnaw the face-cloth, then it wailed and shrieked horribly, burst open the coffin, and flames arose from the ground. This pleasant spectre then commenced its midnight murders in the wolf form, and these could only be stopped by the priest taking up the body, decapitating it, and flinging the head into a stream.
    It is worth mentioning, in addition to the remark in the beginning of our paper, that the discovery of wild children reared by savage animals in the woods may have strengthened the belief in half-human animals, that Dr. Hubsch, physician to the hospitals of Constantinople, stated that in 1852 he saw a specimen of one of a Central African tribe which possessed tails and fed constantly on human flesh. Mr. Baring-Gould, in his article on Tailed Men (Curious Myths of the Middle Ages), gives the history of John Struys, a Dutch traveller, who, he states, visited the Isle of Formosa in 1677, and who thus describes a wild man whom his companions
caught, and who had murdered one of their number : " He had a tail more than a foot long, covered with red hair, and very like that of a cow."
    Before taking leave of this interesting but ghastly superstition, I would mention the derivation of the prefix "were " in the word werewolf, as given by Sir Frederick Madden: "Wer," or "wera," a man, being the same as the Gothic "wair," Teutonic "wer," Francic "uuara," Celtic "gur," "gwr," or " ur," Irish "fair," Latin " vir," etc.
    Gervaise, of Tilbury, writing in the reign of Henry the Second, states : " Vidimus enim frequenter in Anglia per lunationes homines in lupos mutari, quod hominum genus Gerulfos Galli nominant, Angli vero werewlf dicunt ; were enim Anglice virum sonat, wlf, lupum."

All the Year Round, 1883

Wednesday 9 June 2010

The Vampyre

Here's a lovely 'factual' piece from Reynold's Miscellany to chill the blood of any mid-Victorian young lady (or young man, for that matter).  It's from 1849 and contains all manner of interesting stuff (if you're interested in vampires) The author is one Frederick George Lee - who, it transpires, was a noted theologian and clergyman later in life, as well as penning a couple of books on the supernatural. At the time this article was written, he appears to have been only sixteen years old.

Did you know that you could become a vampire from eating infected beef? No, neither did I. Read on ...


Of all the superstitions that have from time to time terrified mankind, there is not one so revolting and disgusting as that regarding the vampyre. This blood-sucker has been pictured as "a ravenous corpse who rises in body and soul from the grave for the purpose of glutting his sanguinary appetite with the life-blood of those whose blood stagnates in his veins." He is endowed with an incorruptible frame to prey upon the lives of those of his nearest and dearest friends: he re-appears amongst them from the world of the tomb, not to tell the secrets of "joy or of woe,"—not to warn by his experience,— but to appal and assassinate those of his friends who were once dear to him;— and this, not for the gratification of any human feeling or revenge, but to feast a monstrous thirst after blood acquired in the tomb. Wasting illness, followed by death, was not all the punishment the victim had to suffer. He who was sucked by this monster, was in his turn compelled to become a member of this blood-thirsty community, and to inflict on others the same torments and evils he himself had endured. The vampyre not only sucked the blood of human beings but fed on that of cattle, to which he was supposed to communicate his  infections and loathsome disorder; so that if any one were unlucky enough to eat the flesh of cattle that had been sucked, he would, after death, be certain to become a member of the sanguinary fraternity.
     This horrible superstition was at its height in the beginning: of the eighteenth century. The peasants of Poland, Hungary,- Russia, and Germany, all believed in it; and the result was the greatest terror amongst that population. In many countries the belief was not confined to what is called the "lower classes:" all partook of it. Military and ecelesiastical commissions were appointed to examine: the facts; and whole countries rung with accounts of the ravages said to be committed by this infernal being.
    We quote from a translation of a foreign work the following mode which was employed in Germany, for the detection of vampyres:— "On a black horse they mounted a young male child, and compelled, them to gallop to and fro in the churchyard; and wherever the animal refused to proceed, they concluded that grave to contain a vampyre. Then they proceeded to remove the earth, and found a corpse to all appearance sleeping: the eyes half-closed, the face of a bright vermilion colour, the hair and. nails long, the limbs flexible, and the pulse beating.. By cutting off the head and filling up the trench, they supposed all danger to be removed; and those who had been attacked, with care obtained their usual strength."
    Other books on the subject, however, state that no village or town could be dispossessed of this nuisance until the creature was burned; during which time the spectators dipped leaves of rosemary into oil and sprinkled the charred body.
    Some authors affirm that this superstition owes its foundation to an ancient monastic legend which states that a certain Italian saint raised a young man from the grave in order that he should become a witness on behalf of the saint in a court of justice, after which he returned quietly to the solemn stillness of his tomb. In this instance, however, the satanic ferocity is in no way manifest, and therefore cannot exemplify that part of the vampyre's horrid conduct.
    In an article which appeared in a contemporary, the writer states, and with good foundation, that this superstition may be traced to the east. He brings forward a story related in that volume of interesting and extraordinary adventures "The Arabian Nights' Entertainments,"—which serves to show the similarity between the eastern European superstition—the likeness between the goule and the vampyre.
    For ourselves, we consider the superstition to have arisen from the actual ferocity of an animal known in. Africa and some parts of Asia,—we allude to the bat of Africa (Vespertilio Vampyrus), of which we will proceed to give a short description:— "This animal, which strongly resembles the common English bat in form, although perhaps ten times the size; its head is of a dark brown colour; its skin, which appears hard and thick, is of a greenish cast, and reflects beautiful colours in the sun's rays. The wings of the animal, which are very delicate and slender, appear like many coats of the spiders' web laid one upon the other, are used to fan the faces of its victim, whilst it inserts its two long fangs in the vein of some sleeping native—thereby producing a delicious coolness around, which renders repose the sweeter until the sufferer awakes in eternity."
    In this there certainly is a great resemblance to the superstition before related: but from a work published some time ago we quote a passage which throws still farther light upon the general features of the frightful belief:— "From the year 1730 to the year 1735, vampyres formed the general topic of argument and speculation. Pamphlets were published on them — the journals continually detailed fresh prodigies achieved by them—the philosophers scoffed at them—sovereigns sent-officers and.commissioners to iuquice into their terrific proceedings. Hungary, Poland, Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia , were the favourite scenes of :their appearance and exploits. The people of these countries, sunk in the: most abject ignorance, and living in a  condition and on a.coarse food, little above the brutes, placed implicit faith in these wonders. A vampyre haunted and tormented almost every village. Deceased fathers and mothers, who had reposed for years in their grave, appeared again at their dwellings, knocked at their doors, sat down to table in silence, ate little or nothing, sometimes nodded significantly at some unfortunate relation in token of their approaching death, struck them on the back, or sprang on their bellies or throats, and sucked draughts of blood from their veins. In general, however, this last consummation of vampyrism was left as an inference from the other facts; and the statement was, that certain. men or women of the village grew pale, and gradually wasted away — young girls in the flower of health lost the roses of their cheeks, and sank into rapid and premature decay — then an apparition of some deceased individual was seen, and. suspicion instantly fixed on him or her as the cause. The grave of the apparition was resorted to — where the corpse was invariably found fresh and well-preserved: the eyes open, or only half closed — the face vermilion coloured — the hair and nails long —the limbs supple and unstiffened — the heart beating. Nothing more was necessary to fix on the body the crime of vampyrism, and to attach to it the guilt of having drained the streams of life from all the pale youths and hectic maidens in thb vicinity. Some judicial forms were, however, often observed before proceeding to inflict the last penalty of justice on the offender. Witnesses were examined as to the facts alleged; the corpse was drawn from its grave, and handled, and inspected; and if the blood was found fluid in the veins, the members supple, and the flesh free from putrescence, a conviction of vampyrism passed—the executioner proceeded to amputate the head, extract the heart, or sometimes to drive a stake through it, or a nail through the temples, and then the body was burnt and its ashes dispersed to the wind. Burning was found the only infallible mode of divorcing the spirit from the frame of these pertinacious corpses. Impalement of the heart, which had been long considered to be the means of fixing evil and vagrant spirits to the tomb, and which in the case of suicides, our own law has barbarously retained from the days of superstition, was often ineffectual. A herdsman of Blow near Kadam, in Bohemia, on undergoing this ceremony, laughed at the executioners, and returned them many thanks for giving him a stake to defend himself against the dogs. The same night he arose to his nocturnal meal, and suffocated more persons than he had ever attacked before his impalement. He was at last exhumed and carried out of the village: On being again pierced with stakes he cried out most lustily — sent forth blood of a brilliant erubescence — and was at last finally quelled by being burnt to cinders."
   This incident, with many other similar narratives, is related in' a work called "Magia Posthuma," by Charles Ferdinand Schertz, dedicated to Prince Charles of Lorraine, Bishop of Olmutz, and printed at Olmutz in 1706.
    In a canton of Hungary, near the famous Tockay, and between the river Tessie and Transylvania, the people called the Heiduques were possessed by a firm conviction of the powers of vampyres. About 1727, a certain Heiduque, an inhabitant of Medreiga, named Arnold Paul, was crushed to death under a load of hay. .Thirty days afterwards four persons of the village died suddenly with all the symptoms indicative' of death by vampyrism. The people; puzzled and eager to discover the vampyre delinquent, at last recollected that Arnold Paul had often related how, in the environs of Casova on the frontiers of Turkish Servia, he had been tormented, and worried by a Turkish vampyre. This according to the fundamental laws of vampyrism should have converted Arnold into a vampyre in his grave; for all those who are passive vampyres on earth, invariably become vampyres active when they descend to the tomb. Arnold Paul, had, however, always stated that he had preserved himself from the attacks of the Turkish vampyre by eating some of the earth of his grave; and by embrocating himself with :his blood. These: precautions appeared, however, to be fruitless; for the inhabitants of Medreiga, on opening his tomb, forty days after his death, found upon him all the undoubted indices of an archvampyre — his corpse ruddy, his nails elengated; his veins swelling:with a sanguinary tide which oozed from his pores and covered his shroud and winding-sheet. The bailiff of the place proceeded to impale Arnold through the heart; on which he sent forth horrid cries with all the energy of a  living subject. His head was then cut off and his body burnt. Similar execution was then performed on the four deceased persons, the supposed victims of Arnolds' attacks; and.the Heiduques fancied themselves in safety from these terrific persecutors. Five years afterwards however, the same fatal prodigies reappeared. During the space of three months, seventeen persons of different ages and sexes died with all the old diagnostics — some without any visible malady — others, after several days of languor and :atrophy. Amongst others a girl named Stanosky, daughter of the Heiduque Stotutitzo, went one night to rest in perfect health, but awoke in the middle of the night; shrieking and trembling violently: she asserted that the son of the Heiduqe Millo, who had died nine weeks before, had. attacked her in her sleep, and had nearly strangled her with his grasp. Heiduque Millo's son was instantly charged with vampyrism. The .magistrates, physicians, and surgeons of the parish repaired to his grave, and found his body with all the usual characteristics of animation and.imputrescence, but they were at a loss to understand from what channel he had derived his faculties. At last it was discovered that the exhausted vampyre, Arnold Paul, had strangled, not only the four deceased persons but also a number of cattle, whose flesh had,been plentifully eaten by Millo's son and other villagers. This discovery threw the Heiduques into fresh consternation, and afforded, a horrid prospect of an indefinite renewal of the horrors of vampyrism. It was resolved: to open the tombs of all those who bad been buried since the flesh was consumed. Among forty corpses, seventeen were found with all the indubitable characteristics of confirmed vampyres. The bodies were speedily decapitated, the heads impaled, and the members burnt and their ashes cast into the river Teisse. The Abbé Dom. Calmet inquired into these facts, :and found them all judicially authenticated by local authorities, and attested by the officers of the.imperial garrisons, the surgeon majors of the regiments; and the principal inhabitants of the district. The account of the whole proceedings was sent in January 1735 to the Imperial Council of War at Vienna, who had established a military commission to inquire into the facts.

Reynolds Miscellany, January 20, 1849

Sunday 6 June 2010

The Refractory Pupil

Here's a letter contributing to the debate on managing unruly school-children which continues to this very day. It's remarkble how - although we associate the Victorians with iron discipline - the same issues about teacher authority - about parents teaching their children not to respect teachers - are raised in this letter from 1901.

To the Editor of THE OUTLOOK
Elementary schoolmasters - or, at any rate, a great number of them - have a deep-seated grievance which deserves careful and whole-hearted consideration - a grievance which affects nothing more nor less than the very system of compulsory education. It is all very well to talk about this reform and that reform; but, after all, a great deal lies in the hands off the men who come into actual contact with the class for whom the school board system is run - the hundreds of children of all descriptions whose parents will not or cannot have them educated anywhere else. Many of these are tractable children, anxxious to learn, and well-behaved withal; others - and they are many, very many - are juvenile hooligans of an advanced and virulent type. And here the grievance of the master may  be said to begin.
    His cry is for authority - a freer hand. At present he is between the devil and the deep sea. Should he inflict the slightest corporal punishment upon a refractory pupil - a highly necessary action in some cases - he is placed between the enraged parent, who is determined to pursue the matter, on the one side, and the possibility that he may be strongly censured, or even dismissed by the Board, on the other.
     Well, what can he do?
      Every parent seems to drum into his or her children the fact that their schoomaster is merely a paid servant, supported by the money that they themselves pay. Naturally, the result of such a view as this is the utter overthrow of real authority.
      How can a master hope to do any good at all if his class does pretty well what it likes with absolute impunity? But I can hear people saying, why not "keep them in," and give them impositions to do? Impositions are all very well for children of the cultured classes, who are sensitive to punishments of this kind; but with children of the hooligan persuasion impositions are a mere farce. The punishment loses half its value when it does not appeal to the sensitiveness of the punished. The avverage child of, say, the Borough does not mind mere "stopping in," or writing lines; he does not see anything degrading about it. But give him a sharp reminder that he will feel and the ethics of punishment at once strike him as a disagreeable reality.
     I once visitted a board school in the South of London, in a neighnourhood which has a particularly bad name for violence and general bad behaviour. Never shall I forget the scene. The master was a mild, middle-aged man of undoubted abilities for teaching - but he was mild. Thhat sufficient for the youthgful hooligans of whom his class mostly consisted. They jeered at him when he reprimanded them, and when I asked him why he permitted such a state of affairs, and did not administer a sound thrashing to some of them, he replied wearily that it would be quite a fatal thing from his point of view. And on questioning him further, I gathered that his predecessor had been severely censured for striking a boy; and he had therefore sent in his resignation. Still, censure or no censure, had I been the master I should have given one or two of those little savages a sharp lesson. Even when the unhappy master dismissed his class they filed out making audible insulting remarks; some of them even  placed their finger to their noses and "booed" him.  I only hope that this school was an exception to the general rule; for the amount of work done appeared to me to be infinitesimal - a fact not due so much to the fault of the master as his helplessness as regards the judicious infliction of corporal punishment. Without this power he was pitifully weak, and his pupils were not slow to recognise this.
      Let us hope that the school boards will give this matter their earnest consideration as soon as possible. Some small regulation dealing with the matter might easily be framed in such a manner that certain restrictions in the infliction of corporal punishment were made. This would, I feel sure, do a great deal to check the growth of hooliganism by striking at the root, as it were, instead of waiting until the disease has had time to develop.
The Outlook, January 12 1901

Friday 4 June 2010

The Royal Zanettos


As you might gather, I've been storing up book recommendations from publishers for today ... but here's a nice non-profit example of a personal website ... The Royal Zanettos were late Victorian / Edwardian jugglers, and their ancestor is determined to tell their story, which revolves around the music hall, a visit to America and the great Charlie Chaplin. The pictures alone are well worth you time ... read all about it here.

The Victorian Home

A nice little book comes my way, courtesy of Shirebooks. It's called The Victorian Home by Kathryn Ferry and it covers all the ground you'd hope for in a well-written concise 100 pages that are also packed with some great illustrations and examples of Victorian households and houses (the latter are not only in London but throughout the country). Shirebooks are essentially pocket books that are not designed to provide a detailed study (go to Judith Flander's The Victorian House for that) but I think this is good example of the breed, and well worth having if you want a quick and straightforward introduction to the Victorians at home.

Victorian Jewellery

Another book to which I am alerted ... this one also includes a related small exhibition at the British Museum. It's called Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria. Here's the brief explanation from the BM:

Gallery 90 temporary display: Jewellery in the age of Queen Victoria
14 May - 15 August 2010
A small display in Gallery 90 (Prints & Drawings) to mark the publication of C. Gere and J. Rudoe Jewellery in the age of Queen Victoria: a mirror to the world. Research for the book has uncovered many unknown images in the Print Room and these will be shown together with related jewellery. The display focuses on three specific aspects of Victorian culture: Victoria & Albert and their taste in jewellery; international exhibitions and the cult of novelty, and lastly, historical styles and national identity. Exhibits range from an astonishing image of Queen Victoria in mourning, a rare depiction in full-face shown with memorial jewels for Prince Albert, to a startling novelty necklace made of hummingbirds’ heads. The display will also reveal some of the book’s new discoveries: a puzzling inscription on a cravat-pin, ‘Not for Joseph’, turned out to be the title of a popular music-hall hit and is shown together with the song-sheet itself. 
For more details, click here.  If you're a friend of this site, I can also pass on a discount offer, valid until 1July - email me in the next week or two.

Dan Leno

Dan Leno was the king of Victorian music-hall. You may remember Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, Peter Ackroyd's fantasy. I'm told by the people at I.B.Tauris that there's a new biography available by Barry Anthony and - what's more - if you contact me, I can send you the flyer offering 30% discount, as a friend of the site. Here's a nice web page, but a book would be even better, no?