sections in London Characters London
authors illustrators
Thumbnail Studies in the London Streets 1867 William S. Gilbert William S. Gilbert
Getting Up a Pantomime 1868 William S. Gilbert William S. Gilbert
Sitting at a Play 1868 William S. Gilbert William S. Gilbert
The Thumbnail Sketcher in a Cab 1868 William S. Gilbert William S. Gilbert
Scenes in Court 1865 "Mr. Jones" none
In the Witness Box 1865 anonym William Brunton
More "Witnesses" 1865 anonym William Brunton
Sketches in Court 1866 anonym William Brunton
Down at Westminster 1869 anonym William Brunton
The Old Bailey 1866 anonym William Brunton
Outsiders of Society and Their Homes in London 1869 anonym none
Opposite a Cabstand 1869 anonym none
Afternoons in "The Park" 1869 anonym H. Harral
Life in London 1868 anonym none
Housekeeping in Belgravia 1863 anonym none
Billingsgate at Five in the Morning 1866 anonym W. McConnell

transcriber's comments

London Characters and the Humorous Side of London Life is public domain material that can be
freely used.

Although there is no printed date of publication, the "Outsiders of Society and Their Homes
in London" section of this book mentions "the celebrated vintage of 1869" as then available for
drinking, and inside the front cover of my copy of the book is this handwritten inscription:
"Alfred C. Carter, Penge, Oct. 27, 1871." So the book must have been printed either in 1870 or
in 1871 before Oct. 27. The British Library catalogue places it in 1870.

Everything included in this book, both text and illustrations, previously appeared in London
magazine. Although the names of authors of articles were not printed with them, the
contents pages of bound volumes of London Society reveal the names of illustrators. I think that
it is likely that the book's four sections illustrated by William S. Gilbert were written by him.
The author of the section "Scenes in Court," in its tenth paragraph, relates that he was asked,
"whether I were not Mr. Jones." He begins the eleventh paragraph stating, "I readily
acknowledged that ancient name to be mine."

There have been at least three books with "London Characters" as the start of their titles. In 1851
appeared London Characters and Crooks by Henry Mayhew (1812-1887). In 1870 appeared
London Characters and the Humorous Side of London Life. In 1874 appeared London Characters:
Illustrations of the Humor, Pathos, and Peculiarities of London Life
, which has the sixteen sections
of London Characters and the Humorous Side of London Life (1870), followed by eight additional
sections. Since I think that several of the first sixteen sections were not written by Henry Mayhew,
I am wondering why only his name appeared on the title page as the author of the 1874 book. In the
"Billingsgate at Five in the Morning" section of London Characters and the Humorous Side of
London Life
(1870), Henry Mayhew is twice mentioned by name:

"Some years ago Mr. Henry Mayhew, in a series of remarkable articles in the 'Morning Chronicle,'
gave a tabulated statement of the probable amount of this trade; and about five or six years later,
Dr. Wynter, in the 'Quarterly Review,' quoted the opinion of some Billingsgate authority, that the
statement was probably not in excess of the truth.... Another learned authority, Mr. Braithwaite
Poole, when he was goods manager of the London and North-Western Railway Company, brought
the shell-fish as well as the other fish into his calculations, and startled us with such quantities as
fifty million mussels, seventy million cockles, three hundred million periwinkles, five hundred
million shrimps, and twelve hundred million herrings. In short, putting this and that together, he
told us that about four thousand million fish, weighing a quarter of a million tons, and bringing two
million sterling, were sold annually at Billingsgate! Generally speaking, Mr. Poole's figures make
a tolerably near approach to those of Mr. Mayhew; and therefore it may possibly be that we
Londoners—men and women, boys, girls, and babies—after supplying country folks— at about two
fish each every average day, taking our fair share between turbot, salmon, and cod at one end of the
series, and sprats, periwinkles and shrimps at the other."

some correspondencies with Sherlock Holmes stories

crime in Victorian London

"He [Moriarty] is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is theorganizer of half that is evil and of
nearly all that is undetected in this great city" ["The Final Problem" (1893)]. Watson had called
London "that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly
drained" ["A Study in Scarlet" (1887)]. Sherlock Holmes "loved to lie in the very centre of five
millions of people, with his filaments streteching out and running through them, responsive to
every little rumor or suspicion of unsolved crime" ["The Adventure of the Cardboard Box"

"A London crowd is an awful thing, when you reflect upon the number of infamous characters of
which it is necessarily composed. I don't care what crowd it is—whether it is an assemblage of
'raff' at a suburban fair, a body of Volunteers, Rotten Row in the season, or an Exeter Hall May
meeting. Some ingenious statistician has calculated that one in every forty adults in London is
a professional thief; that is to say, a gentleman who adopts, almost publicly, the profession of
burglar, pickpocket, or area sneak; who lives by dishonesty alone, and who, were dishonest
courses to fail him, would have no means whatever of gaining a livelyhood. But of the really
disreputable people in London, I suppose that acknowledged thieves do not form one twentieth
portion. Think of the number of men now living and doing well, as respectable members of
society, who are destined either to be hanged for murder or to be reprieved, according to the
form which the humanitarianism of the Home Sectretary for the time being may take. Murderers
are not recruited, as a rule, from the criminal classes. It is true that now and then a man or
woman is murdered for his or her wealth by a professed thief, but it is the exception, and not the
rule. Murder is often the crime of one who has never brought himself under the notice of the
police before. It is the crime of the young girl with a illegitimate baby; of the jealous husband,
lover, or wife; of a man exposed suddenly to a temptation which he cannot resist—the
temptation of a good watch or well-filled purse, which, not being a professional thief, he does
not know how to get at by any means short of murder. Well, all the scoundrels who are going to
commit these crimes, and to be hung or reprieved for them accordingly, are now walking among
us, and in every big crowd there must be at least one or two of them. Then the forgers; they are
not ordinarily professional thieves; they are usually people holding situations of greater or less
responsibility, from bank managers down to office boys; well, all these forgers who are to be
tried at all the sessions and assizes for the next twenty years, are walking about among us as
freely as you or I. Then the embezzlers—these are always people who stand well with their
employers and their friends. I remember hearing a judge say, in the course of the trial of a
savings-bank clerk for embezzlement, when the prisoner's counsel offered to call witnesses to
character of the highest respectability, that he attached little or no value to the witnesses called
to speak to their knowledge of the prisoner's character in an embezzlement case, as a man
must necessarily be of good repute among his fellows before he could be placed in a position
in which embezzlement was possible to him. Then the committers of assaults of all kinds. These
are seldom drawn from the purely criminal classes, though, of course, there are cases in which
professional thieves resort to violence when they cannot obtain their booty by other means. All
these people—all the murderers, forgers, embezzlers, and assaulters, who are to be tried for
their crimes during the next (say) twenty years, and moreover, all the murderers, forgers,
embezzlers, and assaulters whose crimes escape detection altogether (here is a vast field for
speculation open to the ingenious statisticians—of whom I am certainly one—who begin with
conclusions, and 'try back' to find premisses!)—all are elbowing us about in the streets of this
and other towns every day of our lives. How many of these go to make up a London crowd of,
say, thirty thousand people? Add to this unsavoury category all the fraudulent bankrupts, past
and to come, all the army of swindlers, all the betting thieves, all the unconscientious liars, all the
men who ill-treat their wives, all the wives who ill-treat their husbands, all the profligates of both
sexes, all the scoundrels of every shape and dye whose crimes do not come under the ken of
the British policeman, but who, for all that, are infinitely more harmful to the structure of London
society than the poor prig who gets six months for a 'wipe,' and then reflect upon the nature of
your associates whenever you venture into a crowd of any magnitude!" [London Characters
"Thumbnail Studies in the London Streets"]

"As you are aware, Watson, there is no one who knows the higher criminal world of London so
well as I. For years past I have continually been conscious of some power behind the malefactor,
some deep organizing power which forever stands in the way of the law, and throws its shield
over the wrong-doer. Again and again in cases of the most varying sorts—forgery cases,
robberies, murders—I have felt the presence of this force, and I have deduced its action in many
of those undiscovered crimes in which I have been personally consulted." ["The Final Problem"

"More innocent men are charged with crime and more guilty men escape at the Old Bailey than
at any other court in the kingdom; because the juries, being Londoners, are more accustomed to
look upon the niceties of evidence from a legal point of view, and in many cases come into the
jury-box with exaggerated views of what constitutes a 'reasonable doubt,' and so are disposed
to give a verdict for the prisoner, when a country jury would convict." [London Characters
"The Old Bailey"]

"the byways of London"

"Our route was certainly a singular one. Holmes's knowledge of the byways of London was
extraordinary, and on this occasion he passed rapidly and with an assured step through a
network of mews [stable-yards] and stables, the very existence of which I had never known. We
emerged at last into a small road, lined with old, gloomy houses, which led us into Manchester
Street, and so to Blandford Street." ["The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903)]

"... he must be intimately acquainted with the nearest cut to the obscurest streets; and he must
be prepared to look with an eye of suspicion on all fares who require to be set down at the
Burlington Arcade, the Albany, Swan and Edgar's, Waterloo House, and all the other edifices
which a person may enter from one street and leave by another; and he must know exactly how
long he is to wait at such addresses before he is justified in coming to the conclusion that his
fare has bolted by the other exit. Altogether his profession demands the exercise of various
mental accomplishments, and the Thumbnail Sketcher cannot help thinking that a thoroughly
expert London cabman deserves a far higher intellectual position than that which his envious
fellowmen usually award him." [London Characters "Thumbnail Sketcher in a Cab"]

"Very puzzled, too, is the cabman when he stops at an address and finds that his fare, perhaps
the impecunious Jones, has bolted in transitu, or, if he goes into a city court, has declined
to emerge by the way of the original entrance." [London Characters "Opposite a Cabstand"]


"Do you keep plate in the house, or anything to attract burglars?" ["The Naval Treaty" (1893)]

The Little Oxford Dictionary has, among the meanings of "plate," this one listed: "table
utensils of gold, silver, or other metal."

"Entertainments are in proportion to income; and since you have none of the garden fetes and
tea and fruit on the lawn—nothing, in short, to offer your guests but the dinner or the ball alone,
and since there is no little cost of dress and time in meeting, the meal is, all in all, quite a serious
and formidable matter; and the rivalry in dishes and courses enough to sicken us, as also in plate
and table decorations, is rife indeed." [London Characters "Life in London"]

"Occasionally a cabman is exposed to a good deal of temptation, and the cabman who hesitates
is lost. For instance, if a cabman is hired in the small hours of the morning by disreputable roughs,
and told to be in waiting for a time, and these men subsequently make their appearance again,
with a heavy sack which obviously contains something valuable, and which might be plate, I think
the cabman ought to give information in the proper quarter unless he wishes to make himself an
accomplice." [London Characters "Opposite a Cabstand"]

"Few masters would deny a man reasonable air and exercise, but all who study their own comfort
should fight against any special hour being appropriated by the servant for his outing. His time
belongs to his master, and ought to be subservient to his, to say nothing of the danger of a butler,
who has so much in his charge, making a practice of being absent at a stated time, and thus
giving the opportunity, so soon taken, for many a serious plate robbery." [London Characters
"Housekeeping in Belgravia"]

"everybody was out of town"

"It was a blazing hot day in August. Baker Street was like an oven, and the glare of the
sunshine upon the yellow brickwork of the house across the road was painful to the eye...
Parliament had risen. Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New Forest
or the shingle of Southsea. A depleted bank account had caused me to postpone my holiday ..."
["The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" (1893)]

"All of this occurred during the first month of the long vacation. I went up to my London rooms,
where I spent seven weeks working out a few experiments in organic chemistry. One day
however, when the autumn was far advanced and the vacation drawing to a close ..."
["The 'Gloria Scott' " (1893)]

"... the roar of London is ever in your ears, and the fret and irritation for ever tries your system;
so much so that the [summer] season, that is, the only part of London life supposed enjoyable, no
sooner begins than people begin to lay their plans for its end and out-of-towning. In August you go
because others go, because all the world seems breaking up and off for the holidays, and you
feel in disgrace and punishment if you don't go too. To say the truth, the houses get hotter and
hotter, till the very walls feel warmed through; the blaze of sunshine makes the walls look more
dingy, the chimneys smell, the papered grates and tinselled shavings look shabby, and everybody
feels tired of everybody else and everything about them. If any one stays behind it is so well
known to be no matter of preference when all London is painting, white-washing, and doing up,
that it seems positively against your respectability; so much so, that some who find it convenient
to go rather late or to return rather early are weak enough to keep their front blinds down or
shutters shut, and live and look out on the mews' [stable-yards'] side! In short, out-of-towning is
a point in which you are hardly a free agent. Your servants look for your going out of town, and
some bargain for it at hiring, part because Tea-kettle Thomas and Susan want the change, and
others for the range and riot of your house when you are gone. A friend in —— Gardens, where
there is a fine common garden behind the house, says that all August and September there is
a perfect saturnalia of cooks and charwomen and their friends aping their mistresses—rather
a loud imitation—playing croquet, giving tea and gin parties, dancing, screaming, shouting,
laughing, and making summer life hideous." [London Characters "Life in London"]

"the Carlton Club"

Were the London clubs mentioned in the Holmes Canon made up or real?

"He was a member of the Baldwin, the Cavendish, and the Bagatelle card clubs. It was shown
that, after dinner on the day of his death, he had played a rubber of whist at the latter club."
["The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903)]

"He trusts, therefore, that Mr. Holmes will make every effort to grant this interview, and that he
will confirm it over the telephone to the Carlton Club." ["The Adventure of the Illustrious Client"

At least one of these clubs was real, the Carlton Club.

"Here is a sketch from the window at White's. He is also a member of the Senior and the
Carlton, but he is seldom seen at either. He prefers the view from White's, and he prefers the
men he meets there, and he likes the chattiness of that famous club." [London Characters
"Thumbnail Studies in the London Streets"]

This is also interesting for mentioning "the view from White's," which corresponds with the
statement in "The Greek Interpreter" (1893):

"The two sat down together in the bow-window of the [Diogenes] club. 'To anyone who wishes
to study mankind this is the spot,' said Mycroft. 'Look at the magnificent types! Look at these
two men who are coming towards us, for example.' "

Of course not everyone looking at people in the streets through the window of a London club
would have had as noble a character as Mycroft's.

"A wicked old character is represented in the initial to this paper. He is a gay old bachelor, of
disgraceful habits and pursuits—a course old villain without a trace of gentlemanly, or even
manly, feeling about him. He stands at his club-window by day, leering at every respectable
woman who passes him, in a manner that would insure him a hearty kicking were he not the
enfeebled, palsied old thing he is." [London Characters "Thumbnail Studies in the London

the move to 221B Baker Street

In "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" (1903), a married couple had met in a boarding-house
in London:

"Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a boardinghouse in Russell
Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was staying in it. There was an American young
lady there—Patrick was the name—Elsie Patrick. In some way we became friends, until before
my month was up I was as much in love as man could be. We were quietly married at the registry
office, and we returned to Norfolk a wedded couple."

In "The Valley of Fear" (1914-1915), another married couple had met in a boarding-house in

"There is one other point," said Inspector MacDonald. "You met Mr. Douglas in a boarding
house in London, did you not, and became engaged to him there?"

"A favorite resort of the homeless are boarding-houses. Of these establishments there are
hundreds in London—from those devoted to the entertainment of minor City clerks, rigorously
'engaged during the day,' to those which—one is almost led to suppose—nobody under the rank
of a baronet is received, and even then not without a reference as to respectability on the part of
a peer. But most of these houses have one or two features in common. There is always a large
admixture of people who go there for the sake of society; and of this number a considerable
proportion is sure to consist of widows or spinsters of extremely marriageable tendencies. The
result is that, unless the residents be very numerous, individual freedom is lost, and, instead of
living an independent life as at an hotel, the members of a 'circle' find themselves surrounded
by such amenities as may be supposed to belong a rather large and singularly disunited family.
A great many marriages, however, are made in these establishments, and it is not on record that
they turn out otherwise then well. It must be admitted, too, that men go there to find wives as well
as women to find husbands, so that the arrangement thus far is fair on both sides. But I have been
informed by men who are not among the latter number, that it is found difficult sometimes to get
the fact generally understood. The consequent mistakes of course lead to confusion, and the
result is the occassional retirement of determined bachelors into more private life." ["Outsiders
of Society and Their Homes in London"]

Were Sherlock Holmes's places of abode prior to 221B Baker Street in boarding-houses?

"When I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague Street, just round the corner from
the British Museum, and there I waited, filling in my too abundant leisure time by studying all
those branches of science which might make me more efficient. Now and again cases came
in my way, principally through the introduction of old fellow-students, for during my last years at
the university there was a good deal of talk there about myself and my methods." ["The
Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" (1893)]

The phrase "when I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague Street" implies that he
was no longer living there when he met Dr. Watson. He may have been moving from one
boarding-house to another to avoid "spinsters of extremely marriageable tendencies" whom he
would have found threatening to the unique profession he was pursuing. Could it be that to
escape such attentions Sherlock Holmes sought another man "to go halves with him in some
nice rooms which he had found"? ["A Study in Scarlet" (1887)]

publication order of Sherlock Holmes stories by A. Conan Doyle