Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Archery Rooms

A garbled and verbose description of the 'Archery Rooms', which appears to be hosting a masquerade ball of a middling sort, patronised by shop-assistants and the like (and ladies of easy virtue). All I can find on the internet is that this venue was at 26 Bath Place, New Road, and also used for chartist lectures and meetings. If you know any more, please do let me know. 

There is a place of amusement professedly of this description, located in the New-road, not far from Tottenham-court-road. Those who wish to visit it cannot fail to identify it - being blessed with those very necessary articles vulgarly called eyes, but scientifically known by the name of organs of vision - by observing the exterior adorned in various places with bulls' eyes, with straw retinas.
    Now any one in his every-day senses would imagine that he might have his "dozen o'arrows" for his threepence, and shoot all round the target with perfect satisfaction to himself and to the proprietor; but he may be satisfied it is all moonshine. Not that there is not a deal of archery going on too, but the targets being animated, and fixed upon locomotive crutches, why they may naturally be allowed to put in a negative as to being shot at indiscriminately; and there can be little doubt that steel-pointed shafts would be not altogether so congenial as those of softer construction and tipped with gold.
    The visitor having discovered the whereabouts, walks up-stairs to door No.1, and after making the proprietor aware of his presence by ringing an alarm, he is ushered into the passage, and if he be fortunate enough to possess a ticket, he is suffered to progress on payment of a sixpence; but if he has no ticket, there are no hopes of his further advance unless he advance a shilling. He is then asked whether he will leave his hat, which, if he be green, he will do, and will retire with an exchange, of course, not for the better. He then walks to door No.2, which a little imp of vagabondism unlocks, and, immediately on his left, he finds himself at the approach of the "Archery Rooms;" he walks down three steps, and he is in the very vortex of -----— Instead of archery, what does he see? Servant girls, who serve more masters than one, dressed a la Grecque; French girls, rather furrowed by time, however, with short petticoats, barely reaching below the knee, and too much shrunk above to prevent the display of the bust; in fact, fig-leaves in a state of expansion - flesh-coloured stockings, and white Adelaides, unlaced at the top; married ladies, who occasionally make and keep appointments with unmarried gentlemen; and unmarried maidens who are perfectly indifferent to the ceremonies of the church, and who please according to the favors received; lawyers' clerks; linen-drapers' shopmen and handicraftsmen, transformed into poor imitations of something above their own comprehension, and that of every body else; automaton sailors, frightened at the popping of a soda-water bottle! fighting gladiators, who never touched anything more ponderous than a bodkin; Bedouin Arabs, stiffer than a stretched rope; opera-dancers, whose utmost art is to double shuffle; ostrich feathers in extreme lassitude; velvet bonnets; ravens' wings; dirty stockings; straw cigars! hot water and sugar, mystified with gin; strong smells; sweat and filth; - all these he will meet with at the Archery Rooms - and more. 
    The masquerade, it is said, would take it as a great boon if the proprietor would convert one of his little dark rooms into a dressing-room; for who, with common decency, which no doubt encumbers them, can like to disrobe in the aforesaid passage, through which only ingress and egress is maintained. This is strictly true, and many a ragged shirt has fluttered in the breeze of the two doors, to the admiration of the comers-in and goers-out. Very few persons like to make a public exhibition of dirty flesh and raggedness, and the proprietor knowing this, ought to have a little regard to the delicate and complicated nerves of his supporters. It is not pleasant to see a youth with begrimed legs walk into a pair of loosely-woven blue-striped stockings, and know that, by his exertion in the coming dance, the perspiration will ooze out, dirt and all, and be disseminated in a very attenuated, though palpable, form, into the olfactory nerve of the bystanders. Besides, those ladies who have had the pleasure of witnessing his little innocent preliminaries, will not allow the fact to remain with themselves, and the poor fellow, instead of sporting his twelve inches of foot, will have a chance after all his anxiety to sit alone ingloriously in his dirt, with his yard of clay before him.
    Every one is free to visit the Archery Rooms, in masquerade or not, as fancy or necessity may advise; and, doubtless, nudity might be accommodated if impudence would push him on, but things having been, in the long course of ages, tortured from their natural shapes, art steps into the place of native innocence and simplicity, and Monmouth-street finery covers the dirt of the back settlements.
    The well-dressed young gentlemen who may always be seen at the "Archery" are the young would-be Waterfords of the day, had they the means; and had they, no doubt they would be terrible fellows - terrible in the extreme - there would be no withstanding them; the days of the Mohawks would be revived; but, on second thoughts, it may be questionable whether dare-devilism would expend itself on any other than inanimate objects. Fortunately where the money of a marquis can screen him from the more severe penalties of the law, these droll young men about Town, not having that panacea, are subjected to its visits, to their great and excessive inconvenience. This, likely enough, accounts for their sprees taking place in the dead of the night, when they may prowl about in perfect safety from the police. Accident might, perhaps, lead a policeman from his usual watering-house and a short pipe, and he might catch one of these Waterfords with a knocker in his hand, or a drain-spout on his back, and a magistrate might fine him five pounds, in, in default &c.; but what a difficult job he would have to raise the cash. He would have to provide an intimate wit a pair of hob-nailed boots to run all over the town to collect the money from his friends, and he would inevitably lose his situation behind the counter.
    But to return to the Archery Rooms. About two o'clock in the morning, the announcement is made that "Coffee is ready." It is well that the proprietor has given it a name, as it would sorely puzzle any one to classify it, other than something wet and warm. Now coffee, or whatever else it may be, is not to be had for nothing, and money at the Archery Rooms is much more scarce than may be imagined; the inference, therefore, is, there are very few gentlemen who play the amiable by honouring that place of refreshment with their presence, or that of their fair partners. It is ludicrous to observe how many excuses they are compelled to adopt to prevent a shabby appearance with their partners; some collect in groups, and parade the room; others seem to discover that they have sticks, and look with great admiration and affection on them; many appear quite unconscious of any announcement having been made and anxiously enquire when the next set of quod-rilles (with particular emphasis on the first syllable) will be danced; and when the discordant strains issue from the elevated orchestra, and three or four half-starved cripples of musicians, styled by the proprietor, "Weippart's band increased," it is quite gratifying to see their faces lighted up with such sudden satisfaction. To it they go again in an uninterrupted whirl, till the tallow-dips sink into their sockets, their peculiar smell overpowering the odiferous exhalations already dripping down the walls, and the company adjourn to the coffee-room, where a "free and easy" at which a daughter who has been dancing and selling flowers all the evening, presides, terminates the amusements. Such is a sight and general sketch of the "Archery Rooms."

The Town, 8 July 1837

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Black Sall

The Town was a "lads' mag" (to borrow a modern phrase) that flourished in the late 1830s, early 1840s, aimed at 'men about town'. The tone was often semi-pornographic, with features including 'Sketches of Courtezans', describing the life histories of well-known prostitutes, and the occasional description of 'low life' in the Pierce Egan style. The description below covers this ground - and I apologise, in advance, for 1830s racism, orientalism, sexism &c. - painting a fascinating picture of 'fast' life in the maritime world of the East End, and early-Victorian prostitution.


"The lady with the diamonds and laces,
By day may heighten her charms.
But Sall, without any such graces,
At night lies as warm in your arms.

The night, when her sable o'ershades us,
Will veil all the pomp of the day;
Then Sall is as good as my lady,
And cats are all equally grey."

Our readers will no doubt be struck with the contrast which our present sketch forms to the bland elegance of that which graced the columns of our last number.
 settlement so long sought for by Mr. Buckingham in reference to the East, nor do we allude to the eastern land of the genii of our childhood - "The Arabian Nights." We refer only to the eastern hemisphere of our vast metropolis; and to aid us in our treatise, and to illustrate our views, we have taken the liberty of introducing Black Sarah, the far-famed mollisher of Radcliffe-highway, to the notice of our friends in the West.
  Oh, gentle readers, few of you, we fear, have busied yourselves with oriental research; few, indeed, are wise in the affairs of our Eastern settlements. We must explain: we do not mean the
    Blue-gate Fields is a small narrow turning about the centre of Ratcliffe-highway, leading into the back road, St. George's in the East; facing it in the Highway is a pawnbroker's and a gin shop; near to the top of it, in the road, are East India Company's Chinese and Lascar barracks, for the last thirty years, and we believe now, under the superintendence of Mr. Gole. - These same Lascars and Chinamen, though odd-looking persons in appearance, are still prone to the natural indulgence of the sex, and what our best-beloved cousin, the beauteous Ellen Clarke is to the Duke, the count and others, such is Black Sarah to these eastern wights; and the proximate situation of the before-mentioned Blue-gate Fields, where she resides, to the barracks, makes it very convenient for these luxurious sons of India to call and revel in the dusky charms of the finely-proportioned worsted-headed Sall.
    Sall, it will be instantly perceived, is not one of the insipid things they call genteel; she may be compared in maritime analogy, to a Dutch-built piratical schooner, carrying on a free trade under the black flag; ergo, in the same spirit, the ladies of her calibre in the west, may be said to resemble the pleasure yachts of noblemen and gentlemen, and to a certain extent, they more than bear out the metaphor. But let not our friends be deceived in Sarah - she is better than she looks:

"For 'tis vain to guess,
At woman by appearances;
They paint, and patch their imperfections
Of intellectual complexions,
And daub their tempers o'ver with washes
As artificial as their faces." - Hudibras

"Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover, fades to the eye, and palls upon the sense;" at any rate, it is evident our jolly Jack Tars entertain this opinion in its fullest sense, and act upon it oo; for many and many a stout and lusty lagger has bourne down upon, and hoisted the British standard over, our sable privateer, Black Sall.
    Sall is a good creature in her way. She never was taken before the cadi (for we must give the beak his eastern appellation) upon any change worse than "drunk and disorderly;" and she had been heard to declare that she "niver had more dan two mons wid labour since she valked de High-vay;" or, to use our own classic phraseology, since she has done the peripatetic on the pavé of the "city of (gin) palaces".
    We have heard talk of eastern magnificence, of seraglios, of baths, of mosaic pavements, of temples and mosques, dedicated to the worship of the Prophet Mahomet; but our eastern sketch treats not of them, and yet there is much of oriental luxurious indolence about the character of our women and men of the east end of the town. If we travel into the regions of Shadwell, Gravel-lane, the Match-walk, or Wapping, and take a peep up the little courts and allies there, we see stretched on the chairs and beds of the lower apartments, in true Sardinapalus-like style, the jolly Jacks smoking, not the hookah, like the Mussulman, but the short dudee, and beside them sit or squat, strictly after the oriental fashion, their sultanas for the time being, clad in the gorgeous and varied colour of the rainbow; and in the evening, the ear is saluted, not with the "lascivious pleasings of a lute" but the enlivening scrapings of a fiddle. Jack does not sit, like the great caliph, quietly, to observe his girls dance, but, in right good earnest, enters into the sport himself, toe and heeling it in company with his Moll, black or white; for Jack, as we said before, is not one of those "d-----d nasty particular sorts of fellow as stands nice about the colour of the craft, so long as she's a fast sailer." Such is black Sarah, and therefore a favourite with black and white; she is the very life and soul of the neighbouring lush cribs, and sticks to her locality as if she know no other. Who is there that knows anything of the Highway that will not immediately recognise our friend Sall, attired exactly as our artist has represented her, walking from ken to crib, in company with Cocoa Bet, Bet Moses, the Mouth of the Nile, Salmony-faced Mary Anne, Peg Mitchell, Poll Sellers, Kit Fury, Bet Blake, Long Nance Taylor, and others, who surround and form a kind of convoy to her of the black flag.
    The gay daughters of Eve, in this quarter, are rarely seen in bonnets; their morning habiliments are racy in the extreme; they actually walk the streets in a short bed-gown, or night-jacket. In the afternoon they dress and visit the public-houses as regularly as our fair ones in the west do the theatres. The Half Moon and Seven Stars in the Highway, the Ship and Shears and the Duke of York in High-street, Shadwell, and the Shakspeare's Head in Shakspeare's walk, we may mention as houses frequented by Sall and her numerous circle of bewitching satellites.

The Town, 8 July 1837