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1. The Spectator.
Each chapter in the adventures of Sir Roger de Coverley which appears in this volume originally appeared as an issue of a London daily journal of the eighteenth century, called the Spectator. It was published in a single sheet of foolscap, printed in double columns, on both sides, and accompanied by a few announcements of booksellers and theatre managers, and the advertisements of private subscribers. It reported no news; it aimed never to discuss politics; it was in reality a daily essay or sketch, to be read by men of fashion over their chocolate and women of fashion over their tea. To understand the novel purposes of this journal and the extraordinary influence it has exerted one needs to know something of these men and women, who they were, how they lived, what they thought.
The London in which they lived-for Streets. they were most of them Londoners-one might walk the length of in but little over an hour, and across in less than half that time. To do it, however, he would often have to dodge into the street among gilded hackney coaches and fashionable sedan chairs, or else elbow his way brusquely and at risk of
an affray, among porters bent under their loads of merchandise, shopmen stationed at their doors, apprentices, hawkers, sneak thieves, sauntering fops, and big town bullies. The streets were narrow. There were no street numbers, and shopkeepers distinguished their shops by elaborate signs-blue boars, black swans, red lions, and hogs in armor-which swung on creaking hinges over the passers-by. The sidewalks were narrow and divided from the streets by open gutters-kennels they called them then-and by an awkward arrangement of posts and chains. To walk near these kennels in rainy weather was to be drenched from the gutter spouts which, while they hung out a good distance toward the gutters, never sent their stream quite clear of the sidewalk. Rain or shine, men could always pick a quarrel on the privilege of keeping to the wall. One of the most vivid pictures we have of London streets is due to these quarrels regarding the wall. It is from a satirist of the time and runs as follows:
You'll sometimes meet a fop, of nicest tread,
Cocks his broad hat, edg'd round with tarnish'd lace,
3. Night in London.
At night, the tin vessels that served for lamps diffused so little light, that every man with an honest errand engaged a torch-bearer to light him on his way. As for protection, every man had to trust to his own rapier. "Apparelled in thick, heavy great-coats, the watchmen perambulated the streets, crying the hour after the chimes, taking precautions for the prevention of fire, proclaiming tidings of foul or fair weather and awakening at daybreak all those who intended setting out on a journey.' Neither watchman nor constable, however, had enough wit to serve an honest man in time of danger. The greatest fear at night came not from ordinary criminals, though these were common enough, but from bands of aristocratic young rowdies, who seized peaceable men and women on the streets, tattooed or slashed their faces, rolled reputable women round in barrels, or, imitating the fox hunt, chased some citizen about town till finally they had him at their mercy. Then they kept him dancing with pricks of their swords. Of these ruffians, the most notorious were the Mohocks. It was probably of these that Dr. Johnson was thinking when he wrote the lines:
Some fiery fop with new commission vain,
1 Sydney: England and the English in the Eighteenth Century.