Imatges de pÓgina
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and well-brushed clothes, accompanied by their sweethearts, or in some cases by a sister or a cousin equally gay, we see, too, granddads, and grandmams, and children, and grandchildren, who for weeks previous have been reckoning of the fair, all with cheerful faces and holyday clothes promenading the town. Penny showmen begin to bellow, proprietors of hand organs commence grinding, hawkers with stentorian lungs offer their trashy wares for sale by mock auction from their tilted carts, and amusing enough it is to hear the coarse wit and observe the low cunning of these itinerant dealers. Persons who are fond of studying character will be fully remunerated for their time and trouble by standing for a quarter of an hour or so to observe the queer sayings and doings at one of these exhibitions. Children's trumpets are squeaking about one's ears by dozens, and penny rattles keep up an everlasting din. Here an Italian woman is singing to a hand organ ; there a German is grinding away at his hurdy-gurdy, and close by is a band made up of a drum, a fiddle, a mouth organ, and sundry bells attached to a pyramid of brass, which instrument is ever and anon mounted in the air, producing to my untutored ear anything but a pleasant sound. In the churchyard is a boy in ragged apparel, with his face blacked, singing and jumping Jim Crow to the delight of the gaping multitude around him, which boy, at the conclusion of his grotesque performance, is rewarded with a few stray half-pence from the spectators. Punch and Judy is being enacted in one corner of the fair; the little black and white dog that sits trembling on the front of the stage excites the admiration and wonder of the collected crowd.

In the market-place, or it may be in a pasture in the immediate neighbourhood, lays the great centre of attraction—that is to say, in the absence of Wombwell's justly celebrated collection of wild beasts, accompanied, as it always is, by an efficient brass band, which show always takes precedence of every other exhibition. The great point of attraction alluded to is a large company of strolling players, who perform eight or ten times a day to crowded audiences, and who, in the interval of each performance, promenade in full stage dress on an extensive raised platform in front of this temporary theatre. The company is numerous; the dresses, at a distance, look splendid; the band, eight in number, play incessantly. The proprietor is distinguished from the rest of the company by a whip which he holds in his hand, and is just now inviting the public to witness the performance of his numerous and talented company in the following style :

“Walk up, walk up, ladies and gentlemen, and witness the performance of this splendid establishment—the royal London and Liverpool company of comedians, the largest and most talented company now travelling—just going to commence, positively will begin in five minutes' time. Walk up, ladies and gentlemen, and witness the splendid establishment—the whole structure is illuminated with gas, aided by the most talented company in Europe ! A tragedy of intense interest, a farce and pantomime will be presented for your entertainment- walk up, walk up, positively going to begin immediately !"

When the proprietor, for at least the twentieth time, has delivered the above oration, it is generally echoed by the whole company in a style exceedingly pompous, and by the rival clowns in a manner most grotesque and droll, which never fails to call forth loud and repeated bursts of laughter from the crowd below. The grimaces, sayings, and doings of these merrimen are at times very amusing. I know there is a class of beings in the world who will pity me for attaching so much interest to such “ fellows,” who, however, whilst sneering at the performance of these worthies, are, to use a vulgar expression, ready to burst with suppressed laughter. Let such remember that Edmund Kean, Wallock, and other great performers commenced their career with Richardson's company of strolling players. Could poor old Joe Grimaldi come out of his grave and perform bis inimitable feats, as he was wont to do in the height of his glory, still would these eternal sneerers be at their work. Alas, for poor latent talent, if these be the men who are to sit in judgment ! Let it be announced in a country town that a star from the metropolis is to perform the part of Hamlet, and in his stead place one of the veriest mutilators of Shakspeare on the stage, and he shall meet with unbounded applause; and vice versa, let the star go through the part incognito, as a young beginner, and he will receive from the gentlemen alluded to the reward they always bestow on those “blackguard strollers ”—viz., sneers and ridicule.

These observations may be thought severe, but they are nevertheless true; some men possess not the discrimination to observe talent, and therefore are unable to appreciate it. Such individuals attach more importance to names and forms than they do to reality and things. Talent, it is my opinion, is most appreciated by talent. Were a Shakspeare, à Milton, a Scott, or a Burns to be introduced to a company of illiterate men, they would not be received with the warmth and affection that would be evinced by men of true genius and kindred spirits. Not that the former despise talent, but that they are not always capable of appreciating it.

But I have sadly diverged from the point. I was observing that the grimaces, witticisms, &c. of the rival clowns are at times very amusing.

“I say, brother," says one, pointing to a countryman in the crowd with a beard of some days' growth, at the same time addressing the rival clown: “ I say, brother, that man's had his face rubbed with a cat's tail to make his beard grow.”

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"No, no, you're wrong, Johnny," says the other, “he's eat so much bacon that the bristles are growing through his chin.”

These and such-like sayings, accompanied with grimaces, singing, tumbling, dancing, and practical jokes, amuse and provoke the mirth and laughter of the numerous and delighted lookers on. But it is my opinion that as much or more is exhibited outside these shows for nothing as is presented inside for the usual charges.

“ All in all in!” now exclaims the proprietor, flourishing a large whip, with which he most unmercifully assails all little boys who encumber the steps. The gong sends forth its dismal sounds, and to that music the company descend in pairs to the stage, for the purpose of getting through, with as much speed as possible, “ The tragedy of intense interest, the farce and pantomime," as previously announced, all of which they accomplish in the incredibly small space of thirty-five minutes

After having had your eyes and ears feasted here, you elbow your way through the crowd, and are solicited in your progress to "taste and try before you buy” by the various vendors of apples, gingerbread, oranges, ginger beer, &c. At length you find it impossible to proceed further, as the road is entirely blocked up by the exertions of three glee-singers. The road is at length cleared, for a sergeant with two or three privates with drawn swords, accompanied by fifes and drums, advances, and a passage is speedily made through the crowd. This party is beating up for recruits, and many a young man is induced to join their ranks at the spur of the moment, by the martial sound of the fife and drum, the bright scarlet coats, and the address of the sergeant, who describes in the most glowing colours the glory of a soldier's life; thus aided, and deluded in most cases by the potent influence of Sir John Barleycorn, young men enlist themselves into a service which in time of peace offers nothing but a life of indolence, dissipation, and servility, with wretched bad pay and no prospect of advancement, and when called into active service by war are made food for powe der in (it may be) an unjust cause.

The holiday folks continue walking round the fair, viewing the bright and handsome articles which are exposed for sale, consisting of elegant china vases, images, trinkets of various kinds, rosewood and mahogany writing-desks, tea-caddies, work-boxes, &c., too numerous to mention, all presenting a brilliancy dazzling to the eyes of the "sons of the soil."

How the lovers of finery—and there are many here--long to possess some of the articles displayed, which, however, their limited means forbid them to purchase.

Small groups of people are to be seen in different parts of the fair holding parley together: I cannot for the life of me surmise what they are talking

about, therefore I will not pretend to inform the reader. Round the outskirts of the fair “thimble-rig men" Oct. 1845.-VOL. XLIV.—NO. CLXXIV.

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place their tables and follow their delusive occupation; “flats” are not so numerous as they were wont to be, to the no small prejudice of the “profession" to which these gentlemen have devoted themselves. In good truth the frequenters of fairs need be on their guard to escape falling into the wily snares set for them by the members of the “swell mob.” The gang appear in every kind of costume, even from the finished London dandy to the simple country clown; not unfrequently changing their attire three or four times in the course of the day. Prick the garter, dice, boys tossing with halfpence, “ round abouts," swings, Gipsy fortunetellers, and conjurors employed at their avocations, are chiefly confined to the outskirts of the fair, where the various parties have room to follow their respective callings. In this vicinity also booths are erected for the accommodation of persons frequenting the fair, where refreshments may be had. These places sometimes have an “elegant ball room” attached, where the lads and lasses foot it on the light fantastic toe,” by paying a small fee on entering. In the immediate neighbourhood of this scene of profligacy, vice, dissipation, and gaiety, it not unfrequently happens that a man ascends a temporary rostrum for the purpose of exhorting his callous hearers “to repent and flee from the wrath to come,” somewhat in the style of Mawworm. The preacher certainly displays much temerity in so daring an attempt, and evinces more zeal in the cause of religion than consideration for the safety and welfare of his own body; for the bystanders generally assail their “pastor” with a volley of stones or mud, accompanied with yells and groans.

We now hasten back to the town, for a shower of rain has suddenly overtaken us. What confusion and excitement has this trifling event caused ! Females are driving hurry scurry in all directions to get their tine new dresses and gay ribbons under cover. Public and private houses are soon filled. The fair is deserted, to the great detriment of showmen, &c., but to the gain of innkeepers, who derive a good harvest from this seasonable fall of rain. Truly may we say that it is an “ill wind that blows nobody good.” To make the best of the shower the fiddle is called into requisition, accompanied perhaps by the sharp jingle of the tambourine, to which music the company have a reel, thus making the time pass quickly and pleasantly which would otherwise have appeared long and tedious. Around many of these dancing houses, particularly as evening advances, are to be seen mobs of disorderly fellows who have turned out to settle some dispute caused either by strong drink or jealousy. As these disgusting scenes are forced upon the attention of the passers-by, they cannot help thinking that a large field of labour is presented to the advo. cates of the total-abstinence-from-all-intoxicating-drink system.

Tea-time arrives, during which refreshing repast the compan

converse on the gaiety of the fair and the incidents which have occurred during the afternoon-of the beautiful stalls, the droll merrymen at the large show; of what acquaintances they met, how they were dressed and the like.

Tea being over the fair again becomes crowded; forlorn maidens meet with the authors of their unhappiness, occasioned by the perjured vows of inconstant youths. Discarded lovers are mortified by witnessing the object of their affections escorted round the fair by some more favoured and fortunate suitors than themselves. See yon graceful young female who is walking by her mother's side; she

has just met him on whom she had fixed her heart ; on him who vowed he loved her; on him who broke that vow, for now he heeds her not. The inconstant as he passes by with his new lady-love looks gay and thoughtless ; she, poor girl, shudders, turns pale, droops her head, and walks pensively on. What a contrast is presented to the general gaiety by which we are surrounded in the pangs of despised love experienced by that forsaken one.

If we cast our eyes up to that first-floor window, we shall be reminded, even at this gala season, of man's mortality. There we observe, reclining on an easy chair, one of nature's fairest daughters, whom grim death has marked for an early victim. She has been placed in that position so as to command a view of all that is passing in the street. The change of scene partially rallies her sinking frame, but she feels, she knows this is the last fair that she will be permitted to witness; and by the serenity of her countenance we may presume she is resigned to her fate.

But do look at those children-bless their little hearts ! how they, with longing eyes, caper about the gingerbread and toy stalls, pointing with wee fingers at the finery and sweetmeats, and ultimately lay out the few pence they have been so long and carefully saving for the present occasion. Observe those three bipeds on the other side; they are respectively eating hot bread and treacle, chawing bacca, and grinning through a horse-collar for a Wager.

But stand on one side and let that pig pass by with the soaped tail.

Spruce, gay-looking females with dressy lace caps preside at stalls set out with confectionary, who invite the passers-by to tasto and purchase.

They more particularly address themselves to young men, at whom they glance with their well-practised eyes in the most alluring manner possible. What young farmer can withstand such sincere and special ogling? Young men immediately become enraptured with these females: “our sweethearts, brothers, and sisters will expect a fairing,” they say, and gingerbread is purchased to realize the expectations of these friends. During the time of weighing and making into parcels the intended fairings, all manner of pretty things are conveyed by word of

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