The performer of Punch that I saw was a short, dark, pleasant-looking man, dressed in a very greasy and very shiny green shooting-jacket. This was fastened together by one button in front, all the other button-holes having been burst through. Protruding from his bosom, a corner of the pandean pipes was just visible, and as he told me the story of his adventures, he kept playing with the band of his very limp and very rusty old beaver hat. He had formerly been a gentleman’s servant, and was especially civil in his manners. He came to me with his hair tidily brushed for the occasion, but apologised for his appearance on entering the room. He was very communicative, and took great delight in talking like Punch, with his call in his mouth, while some young children were in the room, and who, hearing the well-known sound of Punch’s voice, looked all about for the figure. Not seeing the show, they fancied the man had the figure in his pocket, and that the sounds came from it. The change from Punch’s voice to the man’s natural tone was managed without an effort, and instantaneously. It had a very peculiar effect.
“I am the proprietor of a Punch’s show,” he said. “I goes about with it myself, and performs inside the frame behind the green baize. I have a pardner what plays the music—the pipes and drum; him as you see’d with me. I have been five-and-twenty year now at the business. I wish I’d never seen it, though it’s been a money-making business—indeed, the best of all the street hexhibitions I may say. I am fifty years old. I took to it for money gains—that was what I done it for. I formerly lived in service—was a footman in a gentleman’s family. When I first took to it, I could make two and three pounds a-day—I could so. You see, the way in which I took first to the business was this here—there was a party used to come and ‘cheer’ for us at my master’s house, and her son having a hexhibition of his own, and being in want of a pardner, axed me if so be I’d go out, which was a thing that I degraded at the time. He gave me information as to what the money-taking was, and it seemed to me that good, that it would pay me better nor service. I had twenty pounds a-year in my place, and my board and lodging, and two suits of clothes, but the young man told me as how I could make one pound a-day at the Punch-and-Judy business, after a little practice. I took a deal of persuasion, though, before I’d join him—it was beneath my dignity to fall from a footman to a showman. But, you see, the French gennelman as I lived with (he were a merchant in the city, and had fourteen clerks working for him) went back to his own country to reside, and left me with a written kerrackter; but that was no use to me: though I’d fine recommendations at the back of it, no one would look at it; so I was five months out of employment, knocking about—living first on my wages and then on my clothes, till all was gone but the few rags on my back. So I began to think that the Punch-and-Judy business was better than starving after all. Yes, I should think anything was better than that, though it’s a business that, after you’ve once took to, you never can get out of—people fancies you know too much, and won’t have nothing to say to you. If I got a situation at a tradesman’s, why the boys would be sure to recognise me behind the counter, and begin a shouting into the shop (they must shout, you know): ‘Oh, there’s Punch and Judy—there’s Punch a-sarving out the customers!’ Ah, it’s a great annoyance being a public kerrackter, I can assure you, sir; go where you will, it’s ‘Punchy, Punchy!’ As for the boys, they’ll never leave me alone till I die, I know; and I suppose in my old age I shall have to take to the parish broom. All our forefathers died in the workhouse. I don’t know a Punch’s showman that hasn’t. One of my pardners was buried by the workhouse; and even old Pike, the most noted showman as ever was, died in the workhouse—Pike and Porsini. Porsini was the first original street Punch, and Pike was his apprentice; their names is handed down to posterity among the noblemen and footmen of the land. They both died in the workhouse, and, in course, I shall do the same. Something else might turn up, to be sure. We can’t say what this luck of the world is. I’m obliged to strive very hard—very hard indeed, sir, now, to get a living; and then not to get it after all—at times, compelled to go short, often.
“Punch, you know, sir, is a dramatic performance in two hacts. It’s a play, you may say. I don’t think it can be called a tragedy hexactly; a drama is what we names it. There is tragic parts, and comic and sentimental parts, too. Some families where I performs will have it most sentimental—in the original style; them families is generally sentimental theirselves. Others is all for the comic, and then I has to kick up all the games I can. To the sentimental folk I am obliged to perform werry steady and werry slow, and leave out all comic words and business. They won’t have no ghost, no coffin, and no devil; and that’s what I call spiling the performance entirely. It’s the march of hintellect wot’s a doing all this—it is, sir. But I was a going to tell you about my first jining the business. Well, you see, after a good deal of persuading, and being drew to it, I may say, I consented to go out with the young man as I were a-speaking about. He was to give me twelve shillings a-week and my keep, for two years certain, till I could get my own show things together, and for that I was to carry the show, and go round and collect. Collecting, you know, sounds better than begging; the pronounciation’s better like. Sometimes the people says, when they sees us a coming round, ‘Oh, here they comes a-begging’—but it can’t be begging, you know, when you’re a hexerting yourselves. I couldn’t play the drum and pipes, so the young man used to do that himself, to call the people together before he got into the show. I used to stand outside, and patter to the figures. The first time that ever I went out with Punch was in the beginning of August, 1825. I did all I could to avoid being seen. My dignity was hurt at being hobligated to take to the streets for a living. At fust I fought shy, and used to feel queer somehow, you don’t know how like, whenever the people used to look at me. I remember werry well the first street as ever I performed in. It was off Gray’s Inn, one of them quiet, genteel streets, and when the mob began to gather round I felt all-overish, and I turned my head to the frame instead of the people. We hadn’t had no rehearsals aforehand, and I did the patter quite permiscuous. There was not much talk, to be sure, required then; and what little there was, consisted merely in calling out the names of the figures as they came up, and these my master prompted me with from inside the frame. But little as there was for me to do, I know I never could have done it, if it hadn’t been for the spirits—the false spirits, you see (a little drop of gin), as my master guv me in the morning. The first time as ever I made my appearance in public, I collected as much as eight shillings, and my master said, after the performance was over, ‘You’ll do!’ You see I was partly in livery, and looked a little bit decent like. After this was over, I kept on going out with my master for two years, as I had agreed, and at the end of that time I had saved enough to start a show of my own. I bought the show of old Porsini, the man as first brought Punch into the streets of England. To be sure, there was a woman over here with it before then. Her name was——I can’t think of it just now, but she never performed in the streets, so we consider Porsini as our real forefather. It isn’t much more nor seventy years since Porsini (he was a werry old man when he died, and blind) showed the hexhibition in the streets of London. I’ve heerd tell that old Porsini used to take very often as much as ten pounds a-day, and he used to sit down to his fowls and wine, and the very best of everything, like the first gennelman in the land; indeed, he made enough money at the business to be quite a tip-top gennelman, that he did. But he never took care of a halfpenny he got. He was that independent, that if he was wanted to perform, sir, he’d come at his time, not your’n. At last, he reduced himself to want, and died in St. Giles’s workhouse. Ah, poor fellow! he oughtn’t to have been allowed to die where he did, after amusing the public for so many years. Every one in London knowed him. Lords, dukes, princes, squires, and wagabonds—all used to stop to laugh at his performance, and a funny clever old fellow he was. He was past performing when I bought my show of him, and werry poor. He was living in the Coal-yard, Drury-lane, and had scarcely a bit of food to eat. He had spent all he had got in drink, and in treating friends,—aye, any one, no matter who. He didn’t study the world, nor himself neither. As fast as the money came it went, and when it was gone, why, he’d go to work and get more. His show was a very inferior one, though it were the fust—nothing at all like them about now—nothing near as good. If you only had four sticks then, it was quite enough to make plenty of money out of, so long as it was Punch. I gave him thirty-five shillings for the stand, figures and all. I bought it cheap, you see, for it was thrown on one side, and was of no use to any one but such as myself. There was twelve figures and the other happaratus, such as the gallows, ladder, horse, bell, and stuffed dog. The characters was Punch, Judy, Child, Beadle, Scaramouch, Nobody, Jack Ketch, the Grand Senoor, the Doctor, the Devil (there was no Ghost used then), Merry Andrew, and the Blind Man. These last two kerrackters are quite done with now. The heads of the kerrackters was all carved in wood, and dressed in the proper costume of the country. There was at that time, and is now, a real carver for the Punch business. He was dear, but werry good and hexcellent. His Punch’s head was the best as I ever seed. The nose and chin used to meet quite close together. A set of new figures, dressed and all, would come to about fifteen pounds. Each head costs five shillings for the bare carving alone, and every figure that we has takes at least a yard of cloth to dress him, besides ornaments and things that comes werry expensive. A good show at the present time will cost three pounds odd for the stand alone—that’s including baize, the frontispiece, the back scene, the cottage, and the letter cloth, or what is called the drop-scene at the theatres. In the old ancient style, the back scene used to pull up and change into a gaol scene, but that’s all altered now.
[From a Photograph.]
“We’ve got more upon the comic business now, and tries to do more with Toby than with the prison scene. The prison is what we calls the sentimental style. Formerly Toby was only a stuffed figure. It was Pike who first hit upon hintroducing a live dog, and a great hit it were—it made a grand alteration in the hexhibition, for now the performance is called Punch and Toby as well. There is one Punch about the streets at present that tries it on with three dogs, but that ain’t much of a go—too much of a good thing I calls it. Punch, as I said before, is a drama in two hacts. We don’t drop the scene at the end of the first—the drum and pipes strikes up instead. The first act we consider to end with Punch being taken to prison for the murder of his wife and child. The great difficulty in performing Punch consists in the speaking, which is done by a call, or whistle in the mouth, such as this here.” (He then produced the call from his waistcoat pocket. It was a small flat instrument, made of two curved pieces of metal about the size of a knee-buckle, bound together with black thread. Between these was a plate of some substance (apparently silk), which he said was a secret. The call, he told me, was tuned to a musical instrument, and took a considerable time to learn. He afterwards took from his pocket two of the small metallic plates unbound. He said the composition they were made of was also one of the “secrets of the purfession.” They were not tin, nor zinc, because “both of them metals were poisons in the mouth, and hinjurious to the constitution.”) “These calls,” he continued, “we often sell to gennelmen for a sovereign a-piece, and for that we give ’em a receipt how to use them. They ain’t whistles, but calls, or unknown tongues, as we sometimes names ’em, because with them in the mouth we can pronounce each word as plain as any parson. We have two or three kinds—one for out-of-doors, one for in-doors, one for speaking and for singing, and another for selling. I’ve sold many a one to gennelmen going along, so I generally keeps a hextra one with me. Porsini brought the calls into this country with him from Italy, and we who are now in the purfession have all learnt how to make and use them, either from him or those as he had taught ’em to. I larnt the use of mine from Porsini himself. My master whom I went out with at first would never teach me, and was werry partickler in keeping it all secret from me. Porsini taught me the call at the time I bought his show of him. I was six months in perfecting myself in the use of it. I kept practising away night and morning with it, until I got it quite perfect. It was no use trying at home, ’cause it sounds quite different in the hopen hair. Often when I’ve made ’em at home, I’m obliged to take the calls to pieces after trying ’em out in the streets, they’ve been made upon too weak a scale. When I was practising, I used to go into the parks, and fields, and out-of-the-way places, so as to get to know how to use it in the hopen hair. Now I’m reckoned one of the best speakers in the whole purfession. When I made my first appearance as a regular performer of Punch on my own account, I did feel uncommon narvous, to be sure: though I know’d the people couldn’t see me behind the baize, still I felt as if all the eyes of the country were upon me. It was as much as hever I could do to get the words out, and keep the figures from shaking. When I struck up the first song, my voice trembled so as I thought I never should be able to get to the hend of the first hact. I soon, however, got over that there, and at present I’d play before the whole bench of bishops as cool as a cowcumber. We always have a pardner now to play the drum and pipes, and collect the money. This, however, is only a recent dodge. In older times we used to go about with a trumpet—that was Porsini’s ancient style; but now that’s stopped. Only her majesty’s mails may blow trumpets in the streets at present. The fust person who went out with me was my wife. She used to stand outside, and keep the boys from peeping through the baize, whilst I was performing behind it; and she used to collect the money afterwards as well. I carried the show and trumpet, and she the box. She’s been dead these five years now. Take one week with another, all through the year, I should say I made then five pounds regular. I have taken as much as two pounds ten shillings in one day in the streets; and I used to think it a bad day’s business at that time if I took only one pound. You can see Punch has been good work—a money-making business—and beat all mechanics right out. If I could take as much as I did when I first began, what must my forefathers have done, when the business was five times as good as ever it were in my time? Why, I leaves you to judge what old Porsini and Pike must have made. Twenty years ago I have often and often got seven shillings and eight shillings for one hexhibition in the streets: two shillings and three shillings I used to think low to get at one collection; and many times I’d perform eight or ten times in a day. We didn’t care much about work then, for we could get money fast enough; but now I often show twenty times in the day, and get scarcely a bare living at it arter all. That shows the times, you know, sir—what things was and is now. Arter performing in the streets of a day we used to attend private parties in the hevening, and get sometimes as much as two pounds for the hexhibition. This used to be at the juvenile parties of the nobility; and the performance lasted about an hour and a half. For a short performance of half-an-hour at a gennelman’s house we never had less than one pound. A performance outside the house was two shillings and sixpence; but we often got as much as ten shillings for it. I have performed afore almost all the nobility. Lord —— was particular partial to us, and one of our greatest patronizers. At the time of the Police Bill I met him at Cheltenham on my travels, and he told me as he had saved Punch’s neck once more; and it’s through him principally that we are allowed to exhibit in the streets. Punch is exempt from the Police Act. If you read the hact throughout, you won’t find Punch mentioned in it. But all I’ve been telling you is about the business as it was. What it is, is a werry different consarn. A good day for us now seldom gets beyond five shillings, and that’s between myself and my pardner, who plays the drum and pipes. Often we are out all day, and get a mere nuffing. Many days we have been out and taken nuffing at all—that’s werry common when we dwells upon horders. By dwelling on horders, I means looking out for gennelmen what want us to play in front of their houses. When we strike up in the hopen street we take upon a haverage only threepence a show. In course we may do more, but that’s about the sum, take one street performance with another. Them kind of performances is what we calls ‘short showing.’ We gets the halfpence and hooks it. A ‘long pitch’ is the name we gives to performances that lasts about half-an-hour or more. Them long pitches we confine solely to street corners in public thoroughfares; and then we take about a shilling upon a haverage, and more if it’s to be got—we never turns away nuffing. ‘Boys, look up your fardens,’ says the outside man; ‘it ain’t half over yet, we’ll show it all through.’ The short shows we do only in private by-streets, and of them we can get through about twenty in the day; that’s as much as we can tackle—ten in the morning, and ten in the afternoon. Of the long pitches we can only do eight in the day. We start on our rounds at nine in the morning, and remain out till dark at night. We gets a snack at the publics on our road. The best hours for Punch are in the morning from nine till ten, because then the children are at home. Arter that, you know, they goes out with the maids for a walk. From twelve till three is good again, and then from six till nine; that’s because the children are mostly at home at them hours. We make much more by horders for performance houtside the gennelmen’s houses, than we do by performing in public in the hopen streets. Monday is the best day for street business; Friday is no day at all, because then the poor people has spent all their money. If we was to pitch on a Friday, we shouldn’t take a halfpenny in the streets, so we in general on that day goes round for horders. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is the best days for us with horders at gennelmen’s houses. We do much better in the spring than at any other time in the year, excepting holiday time, at Midsummer and Christmas. That’s what we call Punch’s season. We do most at hevening parties in the holiday time, and if there’s a pin to choose between them, I should say Christmas holidays was the best. For attending hevening parties now we generally get one pound and our refreshments—as much more as they like to give us. But the business gets slacker and slacker every season. Where I went to ten parties twenty years ago, I don’t go to two now. People isn’t getting tired of our performances, but stingier—that’s it. Everybody looks at their money now afore they parts with it, and gennelfolks haggles and cheapens us down to shillings and sixpences, as if they was guineas in the holden time. Our business is werry much like hackney-coach work; we do best in vet vether. It looks like rain this evening, and I’m uncommon glad on it, to be sure. You see, the vet keeps the children in-doors all day, and then they wants something to quiet ’em a bit; and the mothers and fathers, to pacify the dears, gives us a horder to perform. It mustn’t rain cats and dogs—that’s as bad as no rain at all. What we likes is a regular good, steady Scotch mist, for then we takes double what we takes on other days. In summer we does little or nothing; the children are out all day enjoying themselves in the parks. The best pitch of all in London is Leicester-square; there’s all sorts of classes, you see, passing there. Then comes Regent-street (the corner of Burlington-street is uncommon good, and there’s a good publican there besides). Bond-street ain’t no good now. Oxford-street, up by Old Cavendish-street, or Oxford-market, or Wells-street, are all favourite pitches for Punch. We don’t do much in the City. People has their heads all full of business there, and them as is greedy arter the money ain’t no friend of Punch’s. Tottenham-court-road, the New-road, and all the henvirons of London, is pretty good. Hampstead, tho’, ain’t no good; they’ve got too poor there. I’d sooner not go out at all than to Hampstead. Belgrave-square, and all about that part, is uncommon good; but where there’s many chapels Punch won’t do at all. I did once, though, strike up hopposition to a street preacher wot was a holding forth in the New-road and did uncommon well. All his flock, as he called ’em, left him, and come over to look at me. Punch and preaching is two different creeds—hopposition parties, I may say. We in generally walks from twelve to twenty mile every day, and carries the show, which weighs a good half-hundred, at the least. Arter great exertion, our woice werry often fails us; for speaking all day through the ‘call’ is werry trying, ’specially when we are chirruping up so as to bring the children to the vinders. The boys is the greatest nuisances we has to contend with. Wherever we goes we are sure of plenty of boys for a hindrance; but they’ve got no money, bother ’em! and they’ll follow us for miles, so that we’re often compelled to go miles to awoid ’em. Many parts is swarming with boys, such as Vitechapel. Spitalfields, that’s the worst place for boys I ever come a-near; they’re like flies in summer there, only much more thicker. I never shows my face within miles of them parts. Chelsea, again, has an uncommon lot of boys; and wherever we know the children swarm, there’s the spots we makes a point of awoiding. Why, the boys is such a hobstruction to our performance, that often we are obliged to drop the curtain for ’em. They’ll throw one another’s caps into the frame while I’m inside on it, and do what we will, we can’t keep ’em from poking their fingers through the baize and making holes to peep through. Then they will keep tapping the drum; but the worst of all is, the most of ’em ain’t got a farthing to bless themselves with, and they will shove into the best places. Soldiers, again, we don’t like, they’ve got no money—no, not even so much as pockets, sir. Nusses ain’t no good. Even if the mothers of the dear little children has given ’em a penny to spend, why the nusses takes it from ’em, and keeps it for ribbins. Sometimes we can coax a penny out of the children, but the nusses knows too much to be gammoned by us. Indeed, servants in generally don’t do the thing what’s right to us—some is good to us, but the most of ’em will have poundage out of what we gets. About sixpence out of every half-crown is what the footman takes from us. We in generally goes into the country in the summer time for two or three months. Watering-places is werry good in July and August. Punch mostly goes down to the sea-side with the quality. Brighton, though, ain’t no account; the Pavilion’s done up with, and therefore Punch has discontinued his visits. We don’t put up at the trampers’ houses on our travels, but in generally inns is where we stays; because we considers ourselves to be above the other showmen and mendicants. At one lodging-house as I stopped at once in Warwick, there was as many as fifty staying there what got their living by street performances—the greater part were Italian boys and girls. There are altogether as many as sixteen Punch-and-Judy frames in England. Eight of these is at work in London, and the other eight in the country; and to each of these frames there are two men. We are all acquainted with one another; are all sociable together, and know where each other is, and what they are a-doing on. When one comes home, another goes out; that’s the way we proceed through life. It wouldn’t do for two to go to the same place. If two of us happens to meet at one town, we jine, and shift pardners, and share the money. One goes one way, and one another, and we meet at night, and reckon up over a sociable pint or a glass. We shift pardners so as each may know how much the other has taken. It’s the common practice for the man what performs Punch to share with the one wot plays the drum and pipes—each has half wot is collected; but if the pardner can’t play the drum and pipes, and only carries the frame, and collects, then his share is but a third of what is taken till he learns how to perform himself. The street performers of London lives mostly in little rooms of their own; they has generally wives, and one or two children, who are brought up to the business. Some lives about the Westminster-road, and St. George’s East. A great many are in Lock’s-fields—they are all the old school that way. Then some, or rather the principal part of the showmen, are to be found about Lisson-grove. In this neighbourhood there is a house of call, where they all assembles in the evening. There are a very few in Brick-lane, Spitalfields, now; that is mostly deserted by showmen. The West-end is the great resort of all; for it’s there the money lays, and there the showmen abound. We all know one another, and can tell in what part of the country the others are. We have intelligence by letters from all parts. There’s a Punch I knows on now is either in the Isle of Man, or on his way to it.”
“‘Bona parlare’ means language; name of patter. ‘Yeute munjare’—no food. ‘Yeute lente’—no bed. ‘Yeute bivare’—no drink. I’ve ‘yeute munjare,’ and ‘yeute bivare,’ and, what’s worse, ‘yeute lente.’ This is better than the costers’ talk, because that ain’t no slang at all, and this is a broken Italian, and much higher than the costers’ lingo. We know what o’clock it is, besides.”
Scene with two Punchmen.
“‘How are you getting on?’ I might say to another Punchman. ‘Ultra cateva,’ he’d say. If I was doing a little, I’d say, ‘Bonar.’ Let us have a ‘shant a bivare’—pot o’ beer. If we has a good pitch we never tell one another, for business is business. If they know we’ve a ‘bonar’ pitch, they’ll oppose, which makes it bad.
“‘Co. and Co.’ is our term for partner, or ‘questa questa,’ as well. ‘Ultray cativa,’—no bona. ‘Slumareys’—figures, frame, scenes, properties. ‘Slum’—call, or unknown tongue. ‘Ultray cativa slum’—not a good call. ‘Tambora’—drum; that’s Italian. ‘Pipares’—pipes. ‘Questra homa a vardring the slum, scapar it, Orderly’—there’s someone a looking at the slum. Be off quickly. ‘Fielia’ is a child; ‘Homa’ is a man; ‘Dona,’ a female; ‘Charfering-homa’—talking-man, policeman. Policeman can’t interfere with us, we’re sanctioned. Punch is exempt out of the Police Act. Some’s very good men, and some on ’em are tyrants; but generally speaking they’re all werry kind to us, and allows us every privilege. That’s a flattery, you know, because you’d better not meddle with them. Civility always gains its esteem.”
The man here took a large clasp-knife out of his breeches pocket.
“This here knife is part of Punch’s tools or materials, of great utility, for it cannot be done without. The knife serves for a hammer, to draw nails and drive them in again, and is very handy on a country road to cut a beefsteak—not a mistake—Well, ye cannot cut a mistake, can ye?—and is a real poor man’s friend to a certainty.
“This here is the needle that completes our tools (takes out a needle from inside his waistcoat collar,) and is used to sew up our cativa stumps, that is, Punch’s breeches and Judy’s petticoats, and his master’s old clothes when they’re in holes. I likes to have everything tidy and respectable, not knowing where I’m going to perform to, for every day is a new day that we never see afore and never shall see again; we do not know the produce of this world, being luxurant (that’s moral), being humane, kind, and generous to all our society of life. We mends our cativa and slums when they gets teearey (if you was to show that to some of our line they’d be horrified; they can’t talk so affluent, you know, in all kinds of black slums). Under the hedgeares, and were no care varder us questa—‘questa’ is a shirt—pronunciation for questra homa.
“Once, too, when I was scarpering with my culling in the monkey, I went to mendare the cativa slums in a churchyard, and sat down under the tombs to stitch ’em up a bit, thinking no one would varder us there. But Mr. Crookshank took us off there as we was a sitting. I know I’m the same party, ’cos Joe seen the print you know and draw’d quite nat’ral, as now in print, with the slumares a laying about on all the tombstones round us.”
The Punchman at the Theatre.
“I used often when a youth to be very fond of plays and romances, and frequently went to theatres to learn knowledge, of which I think there is a deal of knowledge to be learnt from those places (that gives the theatres a touch—helps them on a bit). I was very partial and fond of seeing Romeau and Juliet; Otheller; and the Knights of St. John, and the Pretty Gal of Peerlesspool; Macbeth and the Three Dancing Witches. Don Goovarney pleased me best of all though. What took me uncommon were the funeral purcession of Juliet—it affects the heart, and brings us to our nat’ral feelings. I took my ghost from Romeau and Juliet; the ghost comes from the grave, and it’s beautiful. I used to like Kean, the principal performer. Oh, admirable! most admirable he were, and especially in Otheller, for then he was like my Jim Crow here, and was always a great friend and supporter of his old friend Punch. Otheller murders his wife, ye know, like Punch does. Otheller kills her, ’cause the green-eyed monster has got into his ’art, and he being so extremely fond on her; but Punch kills his’n by accident, though he did not intend to do it, for the Act of Parliament against husbands beating wives was not known in his time. A most excellent law that there, for it causes husbands and wives to be kind and natural one with the other, all through the society of life. Judy irritates her husband, Punch, for to strike the fatal blow, vich at the same time, vith no intention to commit it, not knowing at the same time, being rather out of his mind, vot he vas about. I hope this here will be a good example both to men and wives, always to be kind and obleeging to each other, and that will help them through the mainder with peace and happiness, and will rest in peace with all mankind (that’s moral). It must be well worded, ye know, that’s my beauty.”
Mr. Punch’s Refreshment.
“Always Mr. Punch, when he performs to any nobleman’s juvenile parties, he requires a little refreshment and sperrits before commencing, because the performance will go far superior. But where teetotallers is he plays very mournful, and they don’t have the best parts of the dramatical performance. Cos pump vater gives a person no heart to exhibit his performance, where if any sperrits is given to him he woold be sure to give the best of satisfaction. I likes where I goes to perform for the gennelman to ring the bell, and say to the butler to bring this here party up whatever he chooses. But Punch is always moderate; he likes one eye wetted, then the tother after; but he likes the best: not particular to brandy, for fear of his nose of fading, and afeerd of his losing the colour. All theatrical people, and even the great Edmund Kean, used to take a drop before commencing performance, and Punch must do the same, for it enlivens his sperrits, cheers his heart up, and enables him to give the best of satisfaction imaginable.”
The History of Punch.
“There are hoperas and romarnces. A romarnce is far different to a hopera, you know; for one is interesting, and the other is dull and void of apprehension. The romance is the interesting one, and of the two I likes it the best; but let every one speak as they find—that’s moral. Jack Sheppard, you know, is a romarnce, and a fine one; but Punch is a hopera—a huproar, we calls it, and the most pleasing and most interesting of all as was ever produced, Punch never was beat and never will, being the oldest performance for many hundred years, and now handed down to prosperity (there’s a fine moral in it, too).
“The history or origination of Punch—(never put yerself out of yer way for me, I’m one of the happiest men in existence, and gives no trouble)—is taken from Italy, and brought over to England by Porsini, and exhibited in the streets of London for the first time from sixty to seventy years ago; though he was not the first man who exhibited, for there was a female here before him, but not to perform at all in public—name unknown, but handed down to prosperity. She brought the figures and frame over with her, but never showed ’em—keeping it an unknown secret. Porsini came from Hitaly, and landed in England, and exhibited his performance in the streets of London, and realized an immense sum of money. Porsini always carried a rum-bottle in his pocket (’cause Punch is a rum fellow, ye see, and he’s very fond of rum), and drinked out of this unbeknown behind the baize afore he went into the frame, so that it should lay in his power to give the audience a most excellent performance. He was a man as gave the greatest satisfaction, and he was the first man that brought a street horgan into England from Hitaly. His name is handed down to prosperity among all classes of society in life.
“At first, the performance was quite different then to what it is now. It was all sentimental then, and very touching to the feelings, and full of good morals. The first part was only made up of the killing of his wife and babby, and the second with the execution of the hangman and killing of the devil—that was the original drama of Punch, handed down to prosperity for 800 years. The killing of the devil makes it one of the most moral plays as is, for it stops Satan’s career of life, and then we can all do as we likes afterwards.
“Porsini lived like the first nobleman in the land, and realized an immense deal of money during his lifetime; we all considered him to be our forefather. He was a very old man when he died. I’ve heard tell he used to take very often as much as 10l. a-day, and now it’s come down to little more than 10d.; and he used to sit down to his fowls and wine, and the very best of luxuriousness, like the first nobleman in the world, such as a bottle of wine, and cetera. At last he reduced himself to want, and died in the workhouse. Ah! poor fellow, he didn’t ought to have been let die where he did, but misfortunes will happen to all—that’s moral. Every one in London knowed him: lords, dukes, squires, princes, and wagabones, all used to stop and laugh at his pleasing and merry interesting performance; and a funny old fellow he was, and so fond of his snuff. His name is writ in the annuals of history, and handed down as long as grass grows and water runs—for when grass ceases to grow, ye know, and water ceases to run, this world will be no utility; that’s moral.
“Pike, the second noted street performer of Punch, was Porsini’s apprentice, and he succeeded him after his career. He is handed down as a most clever exhibitor of Punch and showman—’cause he used to go about the country with waggons, too. He exhibited the performance for many years, and at last came to decay, and died in the workhouse. He was the first inventor of the live dog called Toby, and a great invention it was, being a great undertaking of a new and excellent addition to Punch’s performance—that’s well worded—we must place the words in a superior manner to please the public.
“Then if, as you see, all our forefathers went to decay and died in the workhouse, what prospect have we to look forward to before us at the present time but to share the same fate, unless we meet with sufficient encouragement in this life? But hoping it will not be so, knowing that there is a new generation and a new exhibition, we hope the public at large will help and assist, and help us to keep our head above water, so that we shall never float down the river Thames, to be picked up, carried in a shell, coroner’s inquest held, taken to the workhouse, popped into the pithole, and there’s an end to another poor old Punch—that’s moral.
“A footman is far superior to a showman, ’cause a showman is held to be of low degrade, and are thought as such, and so circumstantiated as to be looked upon as a mendicant; but still we are not, for collecting ain’t begging, it’s only selliciting; ’cause parsons, you know (I gives them a rub here), preaches a sermon and collects at the doors, so I puts myself on the same footing as they—that’s moral, and it’s optional, ye know. If I takes a hat round, they has a plate, and they gets sovereigns where we has only browns; but we are thankful for all, and always look for encouragement, and hopes kind support from all classes of society in life.
“Punch has two kind of performances—short shows and long ones, according to denare. Short shows are for cativa denare, and long pitches for the bona denare. At the short shows we gets the ha’pence and steps it—scafare, as we say; and at the long pitches ve keeps it up for half an hour, or an hour, maybe—not particular, if the browns tumble in well—for we never leave off while there’s a major solde (that’s a halfpenny), or even a quartereen (that’s a farden), to be made. The long pitches we fixes at the principal street-corners of London. We never turn away nothink.
“‘Boys, look up your fardens,’ says the outside man; ‘it ain’t half over yet, and we’ll show it all through.’
“Punch is like the income-tax gatherer, takes all we can get, and never turns away nothink—that is our moral. Punch is like the rest of the world, he has got bad morals, but very few of them. The showman inside the frame says, while he’s a working the figures, ‘Culley, how are you a getting on?’ ‘Very inferior indeed, I’m sorry to say, master. The company, though very respectable, seems to have no pence among ’em.’ ‘What quanta denare have you chafered?’ I say. ‘Soldi major quartereen;’ that means, three halfpence three fardens; ‘that is all I have accumulated amongst this most respectable and numerous company.’ ‘Never mind, master, the showman will go on; try the generosity of the public once again.’ ‘Well, I think it’s of very little utility to collect round again, for I’ve met with that poor encouragement.’ ‘Never mind, master, show away. I’ll go round again and chance my luck; the ladies and gentlemen have not seen sufficient, I think. Well, master, I’ve got tres major’—that is, three half-pence—‘more, and now it’s all over this time. Boys, go home and say your prayers,’ we says, and steps it. Such scenes of life we see! No person would hardly credit what we go through. We travel often yeute munjare (no food), and oftentimes we’re in fluence, according as luck runs.
“We now principally dwells on orders at noblemen’s houses. The sebubs of London pays us far better than the busy town of London. When we are dwelling on orders, we goes along the streets chirripping ‘Roo-tooerovey ooey-ooey-ooerovey;’ that means, Any more wanted? that’s the pronounciation of the call in the old Italian style. Toorovey-to-roo-to-roo-toroo-torooey; that we does when we are dwelling for orders mostly at noblemen’s houses. It brings the juvenials to the window, and causes the greatest of attractions to the children of noblemen’s families, both rich and poor: lords, dukes, earls, and squires, and gentlefolks.
“‘Call-hunting,’—that’s another term for dwelling on orders—pays better than pitching; but orders is wery casual, and pitching is a certainty. We’re sure of a brown or two in the streets, and noblemen’s work don’t come often. We must have it authentick, for we travels many days and don’t succeed in getting one; at other times we are more fluent; but when both combine together, it’s merely a living, after all’s said and done, by great exertion and hard perseverance and asidity, for the business gets slacker and slacker every year, and I expect at last it will come to the dogs—not Toby, because he is dead and gone. People isn’t getting tired with our performances; they’re more delighted than ever; but they’re stingier. Everybody looks twice at their money afore they parts with it.—That’s a rub at the mean ones, and they wants it uncommon bad.
“And then, sometimes the blinds is all drawed down, on account of the sun, and that cooks our goose; or, it’s too hot for people to stop and varder—that means, see. In the cold days, when we pitch, people stops a few minutes, drops their browns, and goes away about their business, to make room for more. The spring of the year is the best of the four seasons for us.
“A sailor and a lass half-seas over we like best of all. He will tip his mag. We always ensure a few pence, and sometimes a shilling, of them. We are fond of sweeps, too; they’re a sure brown, if they’ve got one, and they’ll give before many a gentleman. But what we can’t abide nohow is the shabby genteel—them altray cativa, and no mistake: for they’ll stand with their mouths wide open, like a nut-cracker, and is never satisfied, and is too grand even to laugh. It’s too much trouble to carry ha’pence, and they’ve never no change, or else they’d give us some; in fact, they’ve no money at all, they wants it all for, &c.”
Mr. Punch’s Figures.
“This is Punch; this his wife, Judy. They never was married, not for this eight hundred years—in the original drama. It is a drama in two acts, is Punch. There was a Miss Polly, and she was Punch’s mistress, and dressed in silks and satins. Judy catches Punch with her, and that there causes all the disturbance. Ah, it’s a beautiful history; there’s a deal of morals with it, and there’s a large volume wrote about it. It’s to be got now.
“This here is Judy, their only child. She’s three years old come to-morrow, and heir to all his estate, which is only a saucepan without a handle.
“Well, then I brings out the Beadle.
“Punch’s nose is the hornament to his face. It’s a great walue, and the hump on his back is never to be got rid on, being born with him, and never to be done without. Punch was silly and out of his mind—which is in the drama—and the cause of his throwing his child out of winder, vich he did. Judy went out and left him to nurse the child, and the child gets so terrible cross he gets out of patience, and tries to sing a song to it, and ends by chucking it into the street.
“Punch is cunning, and up to all kinds of antics, if he ain’t out of his mind. Artful like. My opinion of Punch is, he’s very incentric, with good and bad morals attached. Very good he was in regard to benevolence; because, you see, in the olden style there was a blind man, and he used to come and ax charity of him, and Punch used to pity him and give him a trifle, you know. This is in the olden style, from Porsini you know.
“The carving on his face is a great art, and there’s only one man as does it reg’lar. His nose and chin, by meeting together, we thinks the great beauty. Oh, he’s admirable!—He was very fond of hisself when he was alive. His name was Punchinello, and we calls him Punch. That’s partly for short and partly on account of the boys, for they calls it Punch in hell O. ‘Oh, there’s Punch in hell,’ they’d say, and gennelfolks don’t like to hear them words.
“Punch has very small legs and small arms. It’s quite out of portion, in course; but still it’s nature, for folks with big bellies generally has thin pins of their own.
“His dress has never been altered; the use of his high hat is to show his half-foolish head, and the other parts is after the best olden fashion.
“Judy, you see, is very ugly. She represents Punch; cos, you see, if the two comes together, it generally happens that they’re summat alike; and you see it’s because his wife were so ugly that he had a mistress. You see, a head like that there wouldn’t please most people.
“The mistress, Polly, dances with Punch, just like a lady in a drawing-room. There ain’t no grievance between him and Judy on account of Miss Polly, as she’s called. That’s the olden style of all, cos Judy don’t know nothing about it.
“Miss Polly was left out because it wasn’t exactly moral; opinions has changed: we ain’t better, I fancy. Such things goes on, but people don’t like to let it be seen now, that’s the difference.
“Judy’s dress, you see, is far different, bless you, than Miss Polly’s. Judy’s, you see, is bed-furniture stuff, and Polly’s all silk and satin. Yes, that’s the way of the world,—the wife comes off second-best.
“The baby’s like his father, he’s his pet all over and the pride of his heart; wouldn’t take all the world for it, you know, though he does throw him out of window. He’s got his father’s nose, and is his daddy all over, from the top of his head to the tip of his toe. He never was weaned.
“Punch, you know, is so red through drink. He’d look nothing if his nose were not deep scarlet. Punch used to drink hard one time, and so he does now if he can get it. His babby is red all the same, to correspond.
“This is the Beadle of the parish, which tries to quell all disturbances but finds it impossible to do it. The Beadle has got a very reddish nose. He is a very severe, harsh man, but Punch conquers him. Ye see, he’s dressed in the olden style—a brown coat, with gold lace and cock’d hat and all. He has to take Punch up for killing his wife and babby; but Punch beats the Beadle, for every time he comes up he knocks him down.
“This next one is the merry Clown, what tries his rig with Punch, up and down—that’s a rhyme, you see. This is the merry Clown, that tries his tricks all round. This here’s the new style, for we dwells more on the comical now. In the olden time we used to have a scaramouch with a chalk head. He used to torment Punch and dodge him about, till at last Punch used to give him a crack on the head and smash it all to pieces, and then cry out—‘Oh dear, Oh dear; I didn’t go to do it—it was an accident, done on purpose.’ But now we do with Clown and the sausages. Scaramouch never talked, only did the ballet business, dumb motions; but the Clown speaks theatrical, comic business and sentimental. Punch being silly and out of his mind, the Clown persuades Punch that he wants something to eat. The Clown gets into the public-house to try what he can steal. He pokes his head out of the window and says, ‘Here you are, here you are;’ and then he asks Punch to give him a helping hand, and so makes Punch steal the sausages. They’re the very best pork-wadding sausages, made six years ago and warranted fresh, and ’ll keep for ever.
“This here’s the poker, about which the Clown says, ‘Would you like something hot?’ Punch says ‘Yes,’ and then the Clown burns Punch’s nose, and sits down on it himself and burns his breeches. Oh, it’s a jolly lark when I shows it. Clown says to Punch, ‘Don’t make a noise, you’ll wake the landlord up.’ The landlord, you see, pretends to be asleep.
“Clown says, ‘You mustn’t hollar.’ ‘No,’ says Punch, ‘I wont;’ and still he hollars all the louder.
“This is Jim Crow: ye see he’s got a chain but he’s lost his watch. He let it fall on Fish-street Hill, the other day, and broke it all to pieces. He’s a nigger. He says, ‘Me like ebery body;’ not ‘every,’ but ‘ebery,’ cos that’s nigger. Instead of Jim Crow we used formerly to show the Grand Turk of Sinoa, called Shallaballah. Sinoa is nowhere, for he’s only a substance yer know. I can’t find Sinoa, although I’ve tried, and thinks it’s at the bottom of the sea where the black fish lays.
“Jim Crow sprung from Rice from America, he brought it over here. Then, ye see, being a novelty, all classes of society is pleased. Everybody liked to hear ‘Jim Crow’ sung, and so we had to do it. The people used to stand round, and I used to take some good money with it too, sir, on Hay-hill. Everybody’s funny now-a-days, and they like comic business. They won’t listen to anything sensible or sentimental, but they wants foolishness. The bigger fool gets the most money. Many people says, ‘What a fool, you must look!’ at that I put my head back. ‘Come on.’ ‘I shan’t. I shall stop a little longer.’
“This is the Ghost, that appears to Punch for destroying his wife and child. She’s the ghost of the two together, or else, by rights, there ought to be a little ghost as well, but we should have such a lot to carry about. But Punch, being surprised at the ghost, falls into exstericks—represented as such. Punch is really terrified, for he trembles like a haspen leaf, cos he never killed his wife. He’s got no eyes and no teeth, and can’t see out of his mouth; or cannot, rather. Them cant words ain’t grammatical. When Punch sees the Ghost he lays down and kicks the bucket, and represents he’s dead.
“The Ghost is very effective, when it comes up very solemn and mournful-like in Romeau and Juliet. I took it from that, yer know: there’s a ghost in that when she comes out of the grave. Punch sits down on his seat and sings his merry song of olden times, and don’t see the Ghost till he gets a tap on the cheek, and then he thinks it’s somebody else; instead of that, when he turns round, he’s most terrible alarmed, putting his arms up and out. The drum goes very shaky when the Ghost comes up. A little bit of ‘The Dead March in Saul,’ or ‘Home, sweet Home:’ anything like that, slow. We none on us likes to be hurried to the grave.
“I now takes up the Doctor. This is the Doctor that cures all sick maids and says, ‘Taste of my drugs before you die, you’ll say they are well made.’ The Doctor always wears a white ermine wig: rabbit skin wouldn’t do, we can’t go so common as that; it’s most costly, cos it was made for him.
“After the Ghost has appeared Punch falls down, and calls loudly for the Doctor, and offers 50,000l. for one; then the Doctor feels his pulse and says, ‘Very unfortunate misfortune! I have forgot my spectacles, cos I never had none. I can see all through it—the man’s not dead.’
“The Doctor gives Punch physic. That’s stick-lickerish wot he subscribes for him; but Punch don’t like it, though it’s a capital subscription for a cure for the head-ache. (I dare say, Mr. Mayhew, sir, you thinks me a very funny fellow.) Punch tries to pay the Doctor back with his own physic, but he misses him every time. Doctors don’t like to take their own stuff anyhow.
“This is the Publican as Punch steals the sausages from; he used to be the Grand Turk of Senoa, or Shallaballah, afore the fashion changed—for a new world always wants new things: the people are like babies, they must have a fresh toy ye know, and every day is a new day that we never seed before.—There’s a moral for you; it’ll make a beautiful book when you comes to have the morals explained. Ye see you might still fancy Punch was the Grand Turk, for he’s got his moustaches still; but they’re getting so fashionable that even the publicans wears ’em, so it don’t matter.
“This tall figure is the hangman and finisher of the law, as does the business in the twinkling of a bed-post. He’s like the income-tax gatherer, he takes all in and lets none out, for a guilty conscience needs no accusing. Punch being condemned to suffer by the laws of his country, makes a mistake for once in his life, and always did, and always will keep a-doing it. Therefore, by cunningness and artfulness, Punch persuades Jack Ketch to show him the way—which he very ‘willingly doeth’—to slip his head into the noose, when Punch takes the opportunity to pull the rope, after he has shown him the way, and is exempt for once more, and quite free.
“Now this is the coffin, and this is the pall. Punch is in a great way, after he’s hung the man, for assistance, when he calls his favourite friend Joey Grimaldi, the clown, to aid and assist him, because he’s afeard that he’ll be taken for the crime wot he’s committed. Then the body is placed in the coffin; but as the undertaker ain’t made it long enough, they have to double him up. The undertaker requests permission to git it altered. Ye see it’s a royal coffin, with gold, and silver, and copper nails; with no plates, and scarlet cloth, cos that’s royalty. The undertaker’s forgot the lid of the coffin, ye see: we don’t use lids, cos it makes them lighter to carry.
“This is the pall that covers him over, to keep the flies from biting him. We call it St. Paul’s. Don’t you see, palls and Paul’s is the same word, with a s to it: it’s comic. That ’ud make a beautiful play, that would. Then we take out the figures, as I am doing now, from the box, and they exaunt with a dance. ‘Here’s somebody a-coming, make haste!’ the Clown says, and then they exaunt, you know, or go off.
“This here is the Scaramouch that dances without a head, and yet has got a head that’ll reach from here to St. Paul’s; but it’s scarcely ever to be seen. Cos his father was my mother, don’t ye see. Punch says that it’s a beautiful figure. I’ve only made it lately. Instead of him we used to have a nobody. The figure is to be worked with four heads, that’s to say one coming out of each arm, one from the body, and one from the neck. (He touches each part as he speaks.) Scaramouch is old-fashioned newly revived. He comes up for a finish, yer know. This figure’s all for dancing, the same as the ghost is, and don’t say nothing. Punch being surprised to see such a thing, don’t know what to make on it. He bolts away, for ye see (whispering and putting up two hands first, and then using the other, as if working Scaramouch), I wants my two hands to work him. After Punch goes away the figure dances to amuse the public, then he exaunts, and Punch comes up again for to finish the remainder part of his performance. He sings as if he’d forgot all that’s gone before, and wishes only to amuse the public at large. That’s to show his silliness and simplicity. He sings comic or sentimental, such as ‘God save the Queen;’—that’s sentimental; or ‘Getting up stairs and playing on the fiddle;’ or ‘Dusty Bob;’ or ‘Rory O’More, with the chill off;’—them’s all comic, but ‘the Queen’s’ sentimental.
“This here is Satan,—we might say the devil, but that ain’t right, and gennelfolks don’t like such words. He is now commonly called ‘Spring-heeled Jack;’ or the ‘Roosian Bear,’—that’s since the war. Ye see he’s chained up for ever; for if yer reads, it says somewhere in the Scripture that he’s bound down for two thousand years. I used to read it myself once; and the figure shows ye that he’s chained up never to be let loose no more. He comes up at the last and shows himself to Punch, but it ain’t continued long, yer know, the figure being too frightful for people to see without being frightened; unless we are on comic business and showing him as Spring-heeled Jack, or the Roosian Bear; and then we keeps him up a long time. Punch kills him, puts him on the top of his stick, and cries, ‘Hooray! the devil’s dead, and we can all do as we like! Good-by, farewell, and it’s all over!’ But the curtain don’t come down, cos we haven’t got none.
“This here’s the bell. Stop a minute, I forgot: this is Punch’s comic music, commonly called a peanner sixty,—not peanner forty, cos Punch wants something out of the common way,—and it plays fifty tunes all at once. This is the bell which he uses to rattle in the publican’s ears when he’s asleep, and wakes his children all up after the nuss as put ’em to bed. All this is to show his foolishness and simplicity; for it’s one of his foolish tricks and frolics for to amuse himself: but he’s a chap as won’t stand much nonsense from other people, because his morals are true, just, right, and sound; although he does kill his wife and baby, knock down the Beadle, Jack Ketch, and the Grand Signor, and puts an end to the very devil himself.”
Description of Frame and Proscenium.
“‘Ladies and gents,’ the man says outside the show, afore striking up, ‘I’m now going to exhibit a preformance worthy of your notice, and far superior to anythink you hever had a hopportunity of witnessing of before.’ (I am a doing it now, sir, as if I was addressing a company of ladies and gentlemen, he added, by way of parenthesis.) ‘This is the original preformance of Punch, ladies and gents; and it will always gain esteem. I am going to hintroduce a preformance worthy of your notice, which is the dramatical preformance of the original and old-established preformance of Punch, experienced many year. I merely call your attention, ladies and gents, to the novel attraction which I’m now about to hintroduce to you.
“‘I only merely place this happyratus up to inform you what I am about to preform to you. The preformance will continue for upwards of one hour—provising as we meets with sufficient encouragement. (That’s business, ye know, master; just to give ’em to understand that we wants a little assistance afore we begins.) It will surpass anythink you’ve had the hopportunity of witnessing of before in all the hannuals of history. I hope, ladies and gents, I am not talking too grammatical for some of you.’
“That there is the address, sir,” he continued, “what I always gives to the audience outside before I begins to preform—just to let the respectable company know that I am a working for to get my living by honest industry.
“‘Those ladies and gents,’ he then went on, as if addressing an imaginary crowd, ‘what are a-standing round, a-looking at the preformance, will, I hope, be as willing to give as they is to see. There’s many a lady and gent now at the present moment standing around me, perhaps, whose hearts might be good though not in their power.’ (This is Punch’s patter, yer know, outside; and when you has to say all that yourself, you wants the affluency of a methodist parson to do the talk, I can tell ye.) ‘Now boys, look up yer ha’pence! Who’s got a farden or a ha’penny? and I’ll be the first brown towards it. I ain’t particular if it’s a half-crown. Now, my lads, feel in your pockets and see if you’ve got an odd copper. Here’s one, and who’ll be the next to make it even? We means to show it all through, provising we meets with sufficient encouragement.’ (I always sticks to them words, ‘sufficient encouragement.’) ‘You’ll have the pleasure of seeing Spring-heeled Jack, or the Roosian Bear, and the comical scene with Joey the clown, and the fryingpan of sassages!’ (That’s a kind of gaggery.)
“I’ll now just explain to you, sir, the different parts of the frame. This here’s the letter-cloth, which shows you all what we performs. Sometimes we has wrote on it—
THE DOMINION OF FANCY,
that fills up a letter-cloth; and Punch is a fancy for every person, you know, whoever may fancy it. I stands inside here on this footboard; and if there’s any one up at the winders in the street, I puts my foot longways, so as to keep my nob out of sight. This here is the stage front, or proceedings (proscenium), and is painted over with flags and banners, or any different things. Sometimes there’s George and the Dragging, and the Rile Queen’s Arms, (we can have them up when we like, cos we are sanctioned, and I’ve played afore the rile princes). But anything for freshness. People’s tired of looking at the Rile Arms, and wants something new to cause attraction, and so on.
“This here’s the playboard, where sits Punch. The scenes behind are representing a garding scene, and the side-scenes is a house and a cottage—they’re for the exaunts, you know, just for convenience. The back scene draws up, and shows the prison, with the winders all cut out, and the bars showing, the same as there is to a gaol; though I never was in one in my life, and I’ll take good care I never shall be.
“Our speaking instrument is an unknown secret, cos it’s an ‘unknown tongue,’ that’s known to none except those in our own purfession. It’s a hinstrument like this which I has in my hand, and it’s tuned to music. We has two or three kinds, one for out-doors, one for in-doors, one for speaking, one for singing, and one that’s good for nothing, except selling on the cheap. They ain’t whistles, but ‘calls,’ or ‘unknown tongues;’ and with them in the mouth we can pronounce each word as plain as a parson, and with as much affluency.
“The great difficulty in preforming Punch consists in speaking with this call in the mouth—cos it’s produced from the lungs: it’s all done from there, and is a great strain, and requires sucktion—and that’s brandy-and-water, or summat to moisten the whistle with.
“We’re bound not to drink water by our purfession, when we can get anything stronger. It weakens the nerves, but we always like to keep in the bounds of propriety, respectability, and decency. I drinks my beer with my call in my mouth, and never takes it out, cos it exposes it, and the boys (hang ’em!) is so inquisitive. They runs after us, and looks up in our face to see how we speaks; but we drives ’em away with civility.
“Punch is a dramatical performance, sir, in two acts, patronised by the nobility and gentry at large. We don’t drop the scene at the end of the first act, the drum and pipes strikes up instead. The first act we consider to end with Punch being took to prison for the murder of his wife and baby. You can pick out a good many Punch preformers, without getting one so well versed as I am in it; they in general makes such a muffing concern of it. A drama, or dramatical preformance, we calls it, of the original preformance of Punch. It ain’t a tragedy; it’s both comic and sentimental, in which way we think proper to preform it. There’s comic parts, as with the Clown and Jim Crow, and cetera—that’s including a deal more, yer know.
“It’s a pretty play Punch is, when preformed well, and one of the greatest novelties in the world; and most ancient; handed down, too, for many hundred years.
“The prison scene and the baby is what we calls the sentimental touches. Some folks where I preforms will have it most sentimental, in the original style. Them families is generally sentimental theirselves. To these sentimental folks I’m obliged to preform werry steady and werry slow; they won’t have no ghost, no coffin, and no devil; and that’s what I call spiling the preformance entirely. Ha, ha!” he added, with a deep sigh, “it’s the march of intellect that’s a doing all this: it is, sir.
“Other folks is all for the comic, specially the street people; and then we has to dwell on the bell scene, and the nursing the baby, and the frying-pan, and the sassages, and Jim Crow.
“A few years ago Toby was all the go. Formerly the dog was only a stuffed figure, and it was Mr. Pike what first hit upon introducing a live animal; and a great hit it war. It made a surprising alteration in the exhibition, for till lately the preformance was called Punch and Toby as well. We used to go about the streets with three dogs, and that was admirable, and it did uncommon well as a new novelty at first, but we can’t get three dogs to do it now. The mother of them dogs, ye see, was a singer, and had two pups what was singers too. Toby was wanted to sing and smoke a pipe as well, shake hands as well as seize Punch by the nose. When Toby was quiet, ye see, sir, it was the timidation of Punch’s stick, for directly he put it down he flew at him, knowing at the same time that Punch was not his master.
“Punch commences with a song. He does roo-too-rooey, and sings the ‘Lass of Gowrie’ down below, and then he comes up, saying, ‘Ooy-ey; Oh, yes, I’m a coming. How do you do, ladies and gents?’—ladies always first; and then he bows many times. ‘I’m so happy to see you,’ he says; ‘Your most obedient, most humble, and dutiful servant, Mr. Punch.’ (Ye see I can talk as affluent as can be with the call in my mouth.) ‘Ooy-ey, I wishes you all well and happy.’ Then Punch says to the drum-and-pipes man, as he puts his hand out, ‘How do you do, master?—play up; play up a hornpipe: I’m a most hexcellent dancer;’ and then Punch dances. Then ye see him a-dancing the hornpipe; and after that Punch says to the pipes, ‘Master, I shall call my wife up, and have a dance;’ so he sings out, ‘Judy, Judy! my pratty creetur! come up stairs, my darling! I want to speak to you’—and he knocks on the play-board.—‘Judy! Here she comes, bless her little heart!’
Punch. What a sweet creature! what a handsome nose and chin! (He pats her on the face very gently.)
Judy. (Slapping him.) Keep quiet, do!
Punch. Don’t be cross, my dear, but give me a kiss.
Judy. Oh, to be sure, my love. [They kiss.
Punch. Bless your sweet lips! (Hugging her.) This is melting moments. I’m very fond of my wife; we must have a dance.
Judy. Agreed. [They both dance.
Punch. Get out of the way! you don’t dance well enough for me. (He hits her on the nose.) Go and fetch the baby, and mind and take care of it, and not hurt it. [Judy exaunts.
Judy. (Returning back with baby.) Take care of the baby, while I go and cook the dumplings.
Punch. (Striking Judy with his right hand.) Get out of the way! I’ll take care of the baby. [Judy exaunts.
Punch (sits down and sings to the baby)—
“Hush-a-by, baby, upon the tree-top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
Down comes the baby and cradle and all.”
Punch. (Shaking it.) What a cross boy! (He lays it down on the play-board, and rolls it backwards and forwards, to rock it to sleep, and sings again.)
“Oh, slumber, my darling, thy sire is a knight,
Thy mother’s a lady so lovely and bright;
The hills and the dales, and the tow’rs which you see,
They all shall belong, my dear creature, to thee.”
(Punch continues rocking the child. It still cries, and he takes it up in his arms, saying, What a cross child! I can’t a-bear cross children. Then he vehemently shakes it, and knocks its head up against the side of the proceedings several times, representing to kill it, and he then throws it out of the winder.)
Judy. Where’s the baby?
Punch. (In a lemoncholy tone.) I have had a misfortune; the child was so terrible cross, I throwed it out of the winder. (Lemontation of Judy for the loss of her dear child. She goes into asterisks, and then excites and fetches a cudgel, and commences beating Punch over the head.)
Punch. Don’t be cross, my dear: I didn’t go to do it.
Judy. I’ll pay yer for throwing the child out of the winder. (She keeps on giving him knocks of the head, but Punch snatches the stick away, and commences an attack upon his wife, and beats her severely.)
Judy. I’ll go to the constable, and have you locked up.
Punch. Go to the devil. I don’t care where you go. Get out of the way! (Judy exaunts, and Punch then sings, “Cherry ripe,” or “Cheer, boys, cheer.” All before is sentimental, now this here’s comic. Punch goes through his roo-too-to-rooey, and then the Beadle comes up.)
Beadle. Hi! hallo, my boy!
Punch. Hello, my boy. (He gives him a wipe over the head with his stick, which knocks him down, but he gets up again.)
Beadle. Do you know, sir, that I’ve a special order in my pocket to take you up?
Punch. And I’ve a special order to knock you down. (He knocks him down with simplicity, but not with brutality, for the juvenial branches don’t like to see severity practised.)
Beadle. (Coming up again.) D’ye know, my boy, that I’ve an order to take you up?
Punch. And I’ve an order I tell ye to knock you down. (He sticks him. Punch is a tyrant to the Beadle, ye know, and if he was took up he wouldn’t go through his rambles, so in course he isn’t.)
Beadle. I’ve a warrant for you, my boy.
Punch. (Striking him.) And that’s a warrant for you, my boy. (The Beadle’s a determined man, ye know, and resolved to go to the ends of justice as far as possible in his power by special authority, so a quarrel enshoos between them.)
Beadle. You are a blackguard.
Punch. So are you.
(The Beadle hits Punch on the nose, and takes the law in his own hands. Punch takes it up momentary; strikes the Beadle, and a fight enshoos. The Beadle, faint and exhausted, gets up once more; then he strikes Punch over the nose, which is returned pro and con.)
Beadle. That’s a good ’un.
Punch. That’s a better.
Beadle. That’s a topper. (He hits him jolly hard.)
Punch. (With his cudgel.) That’s a wopper. (He knocks him out of his senses, and the Beadle exaunts.)
Enter Merry Clown.
Punch sings “Getting up Stairs,” in quick time, while the Clown is coming up. Clown dances round Punch in all directions, and Punch with his cudgel is determined to catch him if possible.
Clown. No bono, allez tooti sweet, Mounseer. Look out sharp! Make haste! catch ’em alive! Here we are! how are you? good morning! don’t you wish you may get it? Ah! coward, strike a white man! (Clown keeps bobbing up and down, and Punch trying to hit all the time till Punch is exhausted nearly.)
(The Clown, ye see, sir, is the best friend to Punch, he carries him through all his tricks, and he’s a great favorite of Punch’s. He’s too cunning for him though, and knows too much for him, so they both shake hands and make it up.)
Clown. Now it’s all fair; ain’t it, Punch?
Clown. Now I can begin again.
(You see, sir, the Clown gets over Punch altogether by his artful ways, and then he begins the same tricks over again; that is, if we wants a long performance; if not, we cuts it off at the other pint. But I’m telling you the real original style, sir.)
Clown. Good! you can’t catch me.
(Punch gives him one whack of the head, and Clown exaunts, or goes off.)
Enter Jim Crow.
Jim sings “Buffalo Gals,” while coming up, and on entering Punch hits him a whack of the nose backhanded, and almost breaks it.
Jim. What for you do that? Me nigger! me like de white man. Him did break my nose.
Punch. Humbly beg your pardon, I did not go to help it.
(For as it had been done, you know, it wasn’t likely he could help it after he’d done it—he couldn’t take it away from him again, could he?)
Jim. Me beg you de pardon. (For ye see, sir, he thinks he’s offended Punch.) Nebber mind, Punch, come and sit down, and we’ll hab a song.
Jim Crow prepares to sing.
Punch. Bravo, Jimmy! sing away, my boy—give us a stunner while you’re at it.
“I’m a roarer on the fiddle,
Down in the ole Virginny;
And I plays it scientific,
Like Master Paganinni.”
Punch. (Tapping him on the head.) Bravo! well done, Jimmy! give us another bit of a song.
Jim. Yes, me will. [Sings again.
“Oh, lubly Rosa, Sambo come;
Don’t you hear the banjo?
Tum, tum, tum!”
Jim hits Punch with his head over the nose, as if butting at him, while he repeats tum-tum-tum. Punch offended, beats him with the stick, and sings—
“Lubly Rosa, Sambo come;
Don’t you hear the banjo?
Tum, tum, tum!”
Jim. (Rising.) Oh mi! what for you strike a nigger? (Holding up his leg.) Me will poke your eye out. Ready—shoot—bang—fire. (Shoves his leg into Punch’s eye.)
Punch. He’s poked my eye out! I’ll look out for him for the future.
Jim Crow excites, or exaunts. Exaunt we calls it in our purfession, sir,—that’s going away, you know. He’s done his part, you know, and ain’t to appear again.
Judy has died through Punch’s ill usage after going for the Beadle, for if she’d done so before she could’nt ha’ fetched the constable, you know,—certainly not. The beholders only believe her to be dead though, for she comes to life again afterwards, because, if she was dead, it would do away with Punch’s wife altogether—for Punch is doatingly fond of her, though it’s only his fun after all’s said and done.
The Ghost, you see, is only a repersentation, as a timidation to soften his bad morals, so that he shouldn’t do the like again. The Ghost, to be sure, shows that she’s really dead for a time, but it’s not in the imitation; for if it was, Judy’s ghost (the figure) would be made like her.
The babby’s lost altogether. It’s killed. It is supposed to be destroyed entirely, but taken care of for the next time when called upon to preform—as if it were in the next world, you know,—that’s moral.
Enter Ghost. Punch sings meanwhile ‘Home, sweet Home.’ (This is original.) The Ghost repersents the ghost of Judy, because he’s killed his wife, don’t you see, the Ghost making her appearance; but Punch don’t know it at the moment. Still he sits down tired, and sings in the corner of the frame the song of “Home, sweet Home,” while the Sperrit appears to him.
Punch turns round, sees the Ghost, and is most terribly timidated. He begins to shiver and shake in great fear, bringing his guilty conscience to his mind of what he’s been guilty of doing, and at last he falls down in a fit of frenzy. Kicking, screeching, hollering, and shouting “Fifty thousand pounds for a doctor!” Then he turns on his side, and draws hisself double with the screwmatics in his gills. [Ghost excites.
Punch is represented to be dead. This is the dying speech of Punch.
Doctor. Dear me! bless my heart! here have I been running as fast as ever I could walk, and very near tumbled over a straw. I heard somebody call most lustily for a doctor. Dear me (looking at Punch in all directions, and examining his body), this is my pertickler friend Mr. Punch; poor man! how pale he looks! I’ll feel his pulse (counts his pulse)—1, 2, 14, 9, 11. Hi! Punch, Punch, are you dead? are you dead? are you dead?
Punch. (Hitting him with his right hand over the nose, and knocking him back.) Yes.
Doctor. (Rubbing his nose with his hand.) I never heard a dead man speak before. Punch, you are not dead!
Punch. Oh, yes I am.
Doctor. How long have you been dead?
Punch. About six weeks.
Doctor. Oh, you’re not dead, you’re only poorly; I must fetch you a little reviving medicine, such as some stick-lickrish and balsam, and extract of shillalagh.
Punch. (Rising.) Make haste—(he gives the Doctor a wipe on the nose)—make haste and fetch it. [Doctor exaunts.
Punch. The Doctor going to get me some physic! I’m very fond of brandy-and-water, and rum-punch. I want my physic; the Doctor never brought me no physic at all. I wasn’t ill; it was only my fun. (Doctor reappears with the physic-stick, and he whacks Punch over the head no harder than he is able, and cries—)“There’s physic! physic! physic! physic! physic! pills! balsaam! stick-lickerish!”
Punch. (Rising and rubbing his head against the wing.) Yes; it is stick-lickrish.
(Ah! it’s a pretty play, sir, when it’s showed well—that it is—it’s delightful to read the morals; I am wery fond of reading the morals, I am.)
Punch. (Taking the stick from the Doctor.) Now, I’ll give you physic! physic! physic! (He strikes at the Doctor, but misses him every time.) The Doctor don’t like his own stuff.
Punch. (Presenting his stick, gun-fashion, at Doctor’s head.) I’ll shoot ye—one, two, three.
Doctor. (Closing with Punch.) Come to gaol along with me.
(He saves his own life by closing with Punch. He’s a desperate character is Punch, though he means no harm, ye know.) A struggle enshoos, and the Doctor calls for help, Punch being too powerful for him.
Doctor. Come to gaol! You shall repent for all your past misdeeds. Help! assistance! help, in the Queen’s name!
(He’s acting as a constable, the Doctor is, though he’s no business to do it; but he’s acting in self-defence. He didn’t know Punch, but he’d heard of his transactions, and when he came to examine him, he found it was the man. The Doctor is a very sedate kind of a person, and wishes to do good to all classes of the community at large, especially with his physic, which he gives gratis for nothink at all. The physic is called ‘Head-e-cologne, or a sure cure for the head-ache.’)
Re-enter Beadle. (Punch and the Doctor still struggling together.)
Beadle. (Closing with them.) Hi, hi! this is him; behold the head of a traitor! Come along! come to gaol!
Punch. (A-kicking.) I will not go.
Beadle. (Shouting.) More help! more help! more help! help! help! Come along to gaol! come along! come along! More help! more help!
(Oh! it’s a good lark just here, sir, but tremendous hard work, for there’s so many figures to work—and all struggling, too,—and you have to work them all at once. This is comic, this is.)
Beadle. More help! be quick! be quick!
Re-enter Jim Crow.
Jim Crow. Come de long! come de long! come de long! me nigger, and you beata me.
[Exaunts all, Punch still singing out, “I’ll not go.”
END OF FIRST ACT.
Change of Scene for Second Act.
Scene draws up, and discovers the exterior of a prison, with Punch peeping through the bars, and singing a merry song of the merry bells of England, all of the olden time. (That’s an olden song, you know; it’s old ancient, and it’s a moral,—a moral song, you know, to show that Punch is repenting, but pleased, and yet don’t care nothink at all about it, for he’s frolicsome, and on the height of his frolic and amusement to all the juveniles, old and young, rich and poor. We must put all classes together.)
Enter Hangman Jack Ketch, or Mr. Graball.
(That’s Jack Ketch’s name, you know; he takes all, when they gets in his clutches. We mustn’t blame him for he must do his duty, for the sheriffs is so close to him.)
[Preparation commences for the execution of Punch. Punch is still looking through the bars of Newgate.
The last scene as I had was Temple-bar Scene; it was a prison once, ye know; that’s the old ancient, ye know, but I never let the others see it, cos it shouldn’t become too public. But I think Newgate is better, in the new edition, though the prison is suspended, it being rather too terrific for the beholder. It was the old ancient style; the sentence is passed upon him, but by whom not known; he’s not tried by one person, cos nobody can’t.
Jack Ketch. Now, Mr. Punch, you are going to be executed by the British and Foreign laws of this and other countries, and you are to be hung up by the neck until you are dead—dead—dead.
Punch. What, am I to die three times?
Jack. No, no; you’re only to die once.
Punch. How is that? you said I was to be hung up by the neck till I was dead—dead—dead? You can’t die three times.
Jack. Oh, no; only once.
Punch. Why, you said dead—dead—dead.
Jack. Yes; and when you are dead—dead—dead—you will be quite dead.
Punch. Oh! I never knowed that before.
Jack. Now, prepare yourself for execution.
Punch. What for?
Jack. For killing your wife, throwing your poor dear little innocent baby out of the window, and striking the Beadle unmercifully over the head with a mop-stick. Come on.
[Exaunt Hangman behind Scene, and re-enter, leading Punch slowly forth to the foot of the gallows. Punch comes most willingly, having no sense.
Jack. Now, my boy, here is the corfin, here is the gibbet, and here is the pall.
Punch. There’s the corfee-shop, there’s giblets, and there’s St. Paul’s.
Jack. Get out, young foolish! Now then, place your head in here.
Punch. What, up here?
Jack. No; a little lower down.
(There’s quick business in this, you know; this is comic—a little comic business, this is.)
Punch. (Dodging the noose.) What, here?
Jack. No, no; in there (showing the noose again).
Punch. This way?
Jack. No, a little more this way; in there.
[Punch falls down, and pretends he’s dead.
Jack. Get up, you’re not dead.
Punch. Oh, yes I am.
Jack. But I say, no.
Punch. Please, sir, (bowing to the hangman)—(Here he’s an hypocrite; he wants to exempt himself,)—do show me the way, for I never was hung before, and I don’t know the way. Please, sir, to show me the way, and I’ll feel extremely obliged to you, and return you my most sincere thanks.
(Now, that’s well worded, sir; it’s well put together; that’s my beauty, that is; I am obliged to study my language, and not have any thing vulgar whatsoever. All in simplicity, so that the young children may not be taught anything wrong. There arn’t nothing to be learnt from it, because of its simplicity.)
Jack. Very well; as you’re so kind and condescending, I will certainly oblige you by showing you the way. Here, my boy! now, place your head in here, like this (hangman putting his head in noose); this is the right and the proper way; now, you see the rope is placed under my chin; I’ll take my head out, and I will place yours in (that’s a rhyme) and when your head is in the rope, you must turn round to the ladies and gentlemen, and say—Good-by; fare you well.
(Very slowly then—a stop between each of the words; for that’s not driving the people out of the world in quick haste without giving ’em time for repentance. That’s another moral, yer see. Oh, I like all the morals to it.)
Punch (quickly pulling the rope). Good-by; fare you well. (Hangs the hangman.) (What a hypocrite he is again, yer see, for directly he’s done it he says: ‘Now, I’m free again for frolic and fun;’ calls Joey, the clown, his old friend, because they’re both full of tricks and antics: ‘Joey, here’s a man hung hisself;’—that’s his hypocrisy again, yer see, for he tries to get exempt after he’s done it hisself.)
Enter Clown, in quick haste, bobbing up against the gallows.
Clown. Dear me, I’ve run against a milk-post! Why, dear Mr. Punch, you’ve hung a man! do take him down! How came you to do it?
Punch. He got wet through, and I hung him up to dry.
Clown. Dear me! why you’ve hung him up till he’s dried quite dead!
Punch. Poor fellow! then he won’t catch cold with the wet. Let’s put him in this snuff-box. [Pointing to coffin.
[Joey takes the figure down and gives it to Punch to hold, so as the body do not run away, and then proceeds to remove the gallows. In doing so he by accident hits Punch on the nose.
Punch. Mind what you are about! (for Punch is game, yer know, right through to the back-bone.)
Clown. Make haste, Punch, here’s somebody a-coming! (They hustle his legs and feet in; but they can’t get his head in, the undertaker not having made the coffin large enough.)
Punch. We’d better double him up, place the pall on, and take the man to the brave,—not the grave, but the brave: cos he’s been a brave man in his time may be.—Sings the song of ‘Bobbing around,’ while with the coffin he bobs Joey on the head, and exaunt.
Punch. That was a jolly lark, wasn’t it? Sings,—
“I’d be a butterfly, born in a bower,
Making apple-dumplings without any flour.”
All this wit must have been born in me, or nearly so; but I got a good lot of it from Porsini and Pike—and gleanings, you know. [Punch disappears and re-enters with bell.
Punch. This is my pianner-sixty: it plays fifty tunes all at one time.
[Goes to the landlord of the public-house painted on the side-scene, or cottage, represented as a tavern or hotel. The children of the publican are all a-bed. Punch plays up a tune and solicits for money.
Landlord wakes up in a passion through the terrible noise; pokes his head out of window and tells him to go away.
(There’s a little window, and a little door to this side-scene.) If they was to play it all through, as you’re a writing, it ’ud open Drury-lane Theatre.
Punch. Go away? Yes, play away! Oh, you means, O’er the hills and far away. (He misunderstands him, wilfully, the hypocrite.) [Punch keeps on ringing his bell violently. Publican, in a violent passion, opens the door, and pushes him away, saying, “Be off with you!”]
Punch. I will not. (Hits him over the head with the bell.) You’re no judge of music. (Plays away.)
Publican exaunts to fetch cudgel to pay him out. Punch no sooner sees cudgel than he exaunts, taking his musical instrument with him. It’s far superior to anything of the kind you did ever see, except ‘seldom.’ You know it’s silver, and that’s what we says ‘seldom;’ silver, you know, is ‘seldom,’ because it’s seldom you sees it.
Publican comes out of his house with his cudgel to catch old Punch on the grand hop. Must have a little comic.
Punch returns again with his bell, while publican is hiding secretly for to catch him. Publican pretends, as he stands in a corner, to be fast asleep, but keeps his eyes wide awake all the while, and says, ‘If he comes up here, I’ll be one upon his tibby.’
Punch comes out from behind the opposite side, and rings his bell violently. Publican makes a blow at him with his cudgel, and misses, saying, “How dare you intrude upon my premises with that nasty, noisy bell?”
Punch, while publican is watching at this side-scene, appears over at the other, with a hartful dodge, and again rings his bell loudly, and again the publican misses him; and while publican is watching at this side-scene, Punch re-enters, and draws up to him very slowly, and restes his pianner-sixty on the board, while he slowly advances to him, and gives him a whack on the head with his fist. Punch then disappears, leaving his bell behind, and the landlord in pursession of his music.
Landlord (collaring the bell). Smuggings! pursession is nine points of the law! So this bell is mine, (guarding over it with a stick). Smuggings! this is mine, and when he comes up to take this bell away, I shall have him. Smuggings! it’s mine.
Punch re-enters very slowly behind the publican as he is watching the bell, and snatching up the bell, cries out, ‘That’s mine,’ and exaunts with it.
Publican. Dear me! never mind; I look after him; I shall catch him some day or other. (Hits his nose up against the post as he is going away.) (That’s comic.) Oh, my nose! never mind, I’ll have him again some time. [Excite Publican.
Clown re-enters with Punch.
Clown. Oh, Punch, how are you?
Punch. I’m very glad to see you. Oh, Joey, my friend, how do you do?
Clown. Here, Punch, are you a mind for a lark? (Peeping in at the cottage window, represented as a public-house.) Are you hungry, Punch? would you like something to eat?
Clown. What would you like?
Punch. Not peculiar.
(Not particular, he means, you know; that’s a slip word.)
Clown. I’ll go up into the landlord, and see if he’s got anything to eat. (Exaunt into cottage, and poking his head of the window.) Here, Punch; here’s the landlord fast asleep in the kitchen cellar; here’s a lot of sausages hanging up here.
(Joey’s a-thieving; don’t you see, he’s a robbing the landlord now?)
Would you like some for supper, eh, Punch?
Punch. Yes, to be sure.
Clown. Don’t make a noise; you’ll wake the landlord.
Punch (whispering as loud as he can bawl through the window). Hand ’em out here. (Punch pulls them out of the window.)
Clown. What are we to fry them in? I’ll go and see if I can find a fryingpan.
[Exaunt from window, and re-appears with fryingpan, which he hands out of window for Punch to cook sausages in, and then disappears for a moment; after which he returns, and says, with his head out of window, ‘Would you like something hot, Punch?’
Punch. Yes, to be sure.
(Punch is up to everything. He’s a helping him to rob the publican. One’s as much in the mud as the other is in the mire.)
Clown. (Thrusting red-hot poker out of window.) Here, lay hold—Here’s a lark—Make haste—Here’s the landlord a coming. (Rubs Punch with it over the nose.)
Punch. Oh my nose!—that is a hot ’un. [Takes poker.
Clown. (Re-enters, and calls in at window.) Landlord, here’s a fellow stole your sausages and fryingpan. (Wakes up Landlord and exaunts.)
Landlord. (Appears at window.) Here’s somebody been in my house and axually stole my sausages, fryingpan, and red-hot poker!
(Clown exaunts when he has blamed it all to Punch. Joey stole ’em, and Punch took ’em, and the receiver is always worse than the thief, for if they was never no receivers there wouldn’t never be no thieves.)
Landlord. Seizing the sausages in Punch’s hand, says, How did you get these here?
Punch. Joey stole ’em, and I took ’em.
Landlord. Then you’re both jolly thieves, and I must have my property. A scuffle ensues. Punch hollars out, Joey! Joey! Here’s the landlord a stealing the sausages!
(So you see Punch wants to make the landlord a thief so as to exempt himself. He’s a hypocrite there again, you see again—all through the piece he’s the master-piece. Oh a most clever man is Punch, and such an hypocrite.)
(Punch, seizing the fryingpan, which has been on the play-board, knocks it on the publican’s head; when, there being a false bottom to it, the head goes through it, and the sausages gets about the Publican’s neck, and Punch pulls at the pan and the sausages with veheminence, till the landlord is exhausted, and exaunts with his own property back again; so there is no harm done, only merely for the lark to return to those people what belongs to ’em—What you take away from a person always give to them again.)
Clown. Well, Mr. Punch, I shall wish you a pleasant good morning.
Punch. [Hits him with his cudgel.] Good morning to you, Joey.
Punch sits down by the side of the poker, and Scaramouch appears without a head.
Punch looks, and beholds, and he’s frightened, and exaunts with the poker.
Scaramouch does a comic dance, with his long neck shooting up and down with the actions of his body, after which he exaunts.
Punch re-enters again with the poker, and places it beside of him, and takes his cudgel in his hand for protection, while he is singing the National Anthem of “God save the Queen and all the Royal Family.”
Satan then appears as a dream (and it is all a dream after all), and dressed up as the Roossian Bear (leave Politics alone as much as you can, for Punch belongs to nobody).
Punch has a dreadful struggle with Satan, who seizes the red-hot poker and wants to take Punch away, for all his past misdeeds, and frolic and fun, to the bottomless pit.
By struggling with Satan, Punch overpowers him, and he drops the poker, and Punch kills him with his cudgel, and shouts “Bravo! Hooray! Satan is dead,” he cries (we must have a good conclusion): “we can now all do as we like!”—(That’s the moral, you see.) “Good-by, Ladies and Gentlemen: this is the whole of the original performance of Mr. Punch: and I remain still your most obedient and most humble servant to command. Good-by, good-by, good-by. God bless you all. I return you my most sincere thanks for your patronage and support, and I hope you’ll come out handsome with your gold and silver.”
There is one Punch in France, but far different to the English Punch; they exhibiting their figures in a different way by performing them with sticks, the same as Scaramouch is done. They has a performing Punch sitivated at the Boulevards, in Paris, where he has a certain piece of ground allotted for him, with seats attached, being his own freehold property; the passers-by, if they wish to see the performance, they take their seat with the juveniles, sits down, and he performs to them for what they think proper to give him. I never was over in France, but I’ve heard talk of him a deal from foreigners who has given us inflammation about it, vich they was so kind to do. They shows the difference between English and French you know.
The Fantoccini Man.
Every one who has resided for any time in London must have noticed in the streets a large roomy show upon wheels, about four times as capacious as those used for the performance of Punch and Judy.
The proprietor of one of these perambulating exhibitions was a person of some 56 years of age, with a sprightly half-military manner; but he is seldom seen by the public, on account of his habit of passing the greater part of the day concealed within his theatre, for the purpose of managing the figures. When he paid me a visit, his peculiar erect bearing struck me as he entered. He walked without bending his knees, stamped with his heels, and often rubbed his hands together as if washing them with an invisible soap. He wore his hair with the curls arranged in a Brutus, à la George the Fourth, and his chin was forced up into the air by a high black stock, as though he wished to increase his stature. He wore a frock coat buttoned at waist, and open on his expanded chest, so as to show off the entire length of his shirt-front.
I could not help asking him, if he had ever served in the army. He, however, objected to gratify my curiosity on that point, though it was impossible from his reply not to infer that he had been in her majesty’s service.
There was a mystery about his origin and parentage, which he desired should remain undisturbed. His relations were all of them so respectable, he said, that he did not wish to disgrace them by any revelations he might make; thus implying that he considered his present occupation a downfall in life.
“I followed it as my propensity,” he proceeded, “and though I have run through three fortunes, I follow it still. I never knew the value of money, and when I have it in my pocket I cannot keep it there. I have spent forty-five pounds in three days.”
He seemed to be not a little fond of exhibiting his dolls, and considered himself to be the only person living who knew anything of the art. He said orders were sent to him from all parts of the country to make the figures, and indeed some of them were so intricate, that he alone had the secret of their construction.
He hardly seemed to like the Marionettes, and evidently looked upon them as an interference with “the real original character” of the exhibition. The only explanation he could give of the difference between the Marionettes and the Fantoccini was, that the one had a French title, and referred to dolls in modern costume, whilst the other was an Italian word, and applied to dolls in fancy dresses.
He gave me the following interesting statement:—
“The Fantoccini,” he said, “is the proper title of the exhibition of dancing dolls, though it has lately been changed to that of the ‘Marionettes,’ owing to the exhibition under that name at the Adelaide Gallery.
“That exhibition at the Adelaide Gallery was very good in its way, but it was nothing to be compared to the exhibition that was once given at the Argyll Rooms in Regent-street, (that’s the old place that was burned down). It was called ‘Le petit Théâtre Matthieu,’ and in my opinion it was the best one that ever come into London, because they was well managed. They did little pieces—heavy and light. They did Shakespeare’s tragedies and farces, and singing as well; indeed, it was the real stage, only with dolls for actors and parties to speak for ’em and work their arms and legs behind the scenes. I’ve known one of these parties take three parts—look at that for clever work—first he did an old man, then an old woman, and afterwards the young man. I assisted at that performance, and I should say it was full twenty years ago, to the best of my recollection. After the Marionettes removed to the Western Institution, Leicester-square, I assisted at them also. It was a passable exhibition, but nothing out of the way. The figures were only modelled, not carved, as they ought to be. I was only engaged to exhibit one figure, a sailor of my own making. It was a capital one, and stood as high as a table. They wanted it for the piece called the ‘Manager in Distress,’ where one of the performers is a sailor. Mine would dance a hornpipe, and whip its hat off in a minute; when I had finished performing it, I took good care to whip it into a bag, so that they should not see how I arranged the strings, for they was very backwards in their knowledge. When we worked the figures it was very difficult, because you had to be up so high—like on the top of the ceiling, and to keep looking down all the time to manage the strings. There was a platform arranged, with a place to rest against.
“The first to introduce the Fantoccini into London—that is, into London streets, mind you, going about—was Gray, a Scotchman. He was a very clever fellow,—very good, and there was nothing but what was good that belonged to it—scenery, dresses, theatre and all. He had a frame then, no longer than the Punch frame now, only he had a labouring man to carry it for him, and he took with him a box no larger than a haberdasher’s box, which contained the figures, for they were not more than nine inches high. Now my figures are two feet high, though they don’t look it; but my theatre is ten feet high by six foot wide, and the opening is four feet high. This Gray was engaged at all the theatres, to exhibit his figures at the masquerades. Nothing went down but Mr. Gray, and he put poor Punch up altogether. When he performed at the theatres, he used to do it as a wind-up to the entertainment, after the dancing was over, and they would clear the stage on purpose for him, and then let down a scene with an opening in it, the size of his theatre. On these occasions his figures were longer, about two feet, and very perfect. There was juggling, and slack and tight rope-dancing, and Punches, and everything, and the performance was never less than one hour, and then it was done as quick as lightning, every morning, and no feat longer than two or three minutes. It didn’t do to have silly persons there.
“This Gray performed at Vauxhall when Bish, the lottery-man in Cornhill, had it, and he went down wonderful. He also performed before George the Fourth. I’ve heard say that he got ten pounds a-week when he performed at Vauxhall, for they snatched him out of the streets, and wouldn’t let him play there. It’s impossible to say what he made in the streets, for he was a Scotchman and uncommon close. If he took a hatfull, he’d say, ‘I’ve only got a few;’ but he did so well he could sport his diamond rings on his fingers,—first rate—splendid.
“Gray was the first to exhibit gratis in the streets of London, but he was not the first to work fantoccini figures. They had always been exhibited at theatres before that. Old Porsini knowed nothing about them—it was out of his business all together, for he was Punch and nothing more. Gray killed Porsini and his Punch; regular shut him up. A man of the name of Flocton from Birmingham was, to the best of my knowledge, the first that ever had a fantoccini exhibition in England; but he was only for theatres.
“At this time I had been playing in the orchestra with some travelling comedians, and Mr. Seawood, the master, used among other things to exhibit the dancing figures. He had a proscenium fitted up so that he could open a twenty-foot theatre, almost large enough for living persons. He had the splendidest figures ever introduced into this country. He was an artist as well, splendid scene and transparent painter; indeed, he’s worked for some of the first noblemen in Cheltenham, doing up their drawing-rooms. His figures worked their eyes and mouths by mechanism; according to what they had to say, they looked and moved their eyes and mouths according; and females, if they was singing, heaved their bosoms like Christians, the same as life. He had a Turk who did the tight-rope without anybody being seen. He always performed different pieces, and had a regular wardrobe with him—beautiful dresses—and he’d dress ’em up to their parts, and then paint their faces up with distemper, which dries in an hour. Somebody came and told me that Gray was in London, performing in the streets, and that’s what brought me out. I had helped Mr. Seawood to manage the figures, and I knew something about them. They told me Gray had a frame, and I said, ‘Well, it’s a bit of genius, and is a fortune.’ The only figures they told me he had—and it was true—was a sailor, and a Turk, and a clown, and what we calls a Polander, that’s a man that tosses the pole. I left Seawood directly, and I went to my father and got some money, and began instantly making my frame and figures. Mine was about sixteen inches high, and I had five of ’em. I began very strong. My fifth figure was a juggler. I was the second that ever came out in the streets of London. It was at the time that George the Fourth went to Scotland, and Gray went after him to try his luck, following the royal family. As the king went out of London I came in. I first of all put up at Peckham, just to lay to a bit and look about me. I’ll tell you the reason. I had no one to play, and I couldn’t manage the figures and do the music as well, consequently I had to seek after some one to do the pandean pipes. I didn’t like to make my first appearance in London without music. At last I met a party that used to play the pipes at Vauxhall. I met him one day, and he says, ‘What are you up to now?’ so I told him I had the fantoccini figures. He was a beautiful pipe player, and I’ve never heard any one like him before or since. He wouldn’t believe I had the figures, they was such a novelty. I told him where I was staying, and he and his partner came over to see me, and I performed the figures, and then we went on shares. He had worked for Gray, and he knew all his houses where he used to perform, and I knew nothing about these things. When Gray came back he found me performing before one of his houses in Harley-street, where he always had five shillings.
“They was a tremendous success—wonderful. If we had a call at a house our general price was two-and-sixpence, and the performance was, for a good one, twenty minutes. Then there was the crowd for the collection, but they was principally halfpence, and we didn’t care about them much, though we have taken four shillings. We never pitched only to houses, only stopping when we had an order, and we hadn’t occasion to walk far, for as soon as the tune was heard, up would come the servants to tell us to come. I’ve had three at me at once. I’ve known myself to be in Devonshire-place, when I was performing there, to be there for three hours and upwards, going from house to house. I could tell you how much we took a-day. It was, after taking expenses, from four to five pounds a-day. Besides, there was a labourer to whom we paid a guinea a-week to carry a frame, and he had his keep into the bargain. Where Punch took a shilling we’ve taken a pound.
“I recollect going down with the show to Brighton, and they actually announced our arrival in the papers, saying, that among other public amusements they had the Fantoccini figures from London. That’s a fact. That was in the paper. We did well in Brighton. We have, I can assure you, taken eighteen shillings and sixpence in half an hour, corner-pitching, as we call it; that is, at the corner of a street where there is a lot of people passing. We had such success, that the magistrates sent the head-constable round with us, to clear away the mob. If we performed before any gentleman’s place, there was this constable to keep the place clear. A nasty busy fellow he was, too. All the time we was at Brighton we made twenty pounds a-week clear, for we then took only shillings and sixpences, and there was no fourpenny pieces or threepenny bits in them times. We had gentlemen come up many a time and offer to buy the whole concern, clear. What an idea, wasn’t it? But we didn’t want to sell it, they couldn’t have given us our price.
“The crowd was always a great annoyance to us. They’d follow us for miles, and the moment we pitched up they’d come and gather about, and almost choke us. What was their ha’pence to us when we was taking our half-crowns? Actually, in London, we walked three and four miles to get rid of the mob; but, bless you! we couldn’t get rid of them, for they was like flies after honey.
“We used to do a great business with evening parties. At Christmas we have had to go three and four times in the same evening to different parties. We never had less than a guinea, and I have had as much as five pounds, but the usual price was two pounds ten shillings, and all refreshments found you. I had the honour of performing before the Queen when she was Princess Victoria. It was at Gloucester-house, Park-lane, and we was engaged by the royal household. A nice berth I had of it, for it was in May, and they put us on the landing of the drawing-room, where the folding-doors opened, and there was some place close by where hot air was admitted to warm the apartments; and what with the heat of the weather and this ’ere ventilation, with the heat coming up the grating-places, and my anxiety performing before a princess, I was near baked, and the perspiration quite run off me; for I was packed up above, standing up and hidden, to manage the figures. There was the maids of honour coming down the stairs like so many nuns, dressed all in white, and the princess was standing on a sofa, with the Duke of Kent behind her. She was apparently very much amused, like others who had seen them. I can’t recollect what we was paid, but it was very handsome and so forth.
“I’ve also performed before the Baroness Rothschild’s, next the Duke of Wellington’s, and likewise the Baron himself, in Grosvenor-place, and Sir Watkyn W. Wynne, and half the nobility in England. We’ve been in the very first of drawing-rooms.
“I shall never forget being at Sir Watkyn Wynne’s, for we was very handsomely treated, and had the best of everything. It was in St. James’s-square, and the best of mansions. It was a juvenile-party night, and there was a juggler, and a Punch and Judy, and our Fantoccini. One of the footmen comes up, and says he, ‘Would any of you men like a jelly?’ I told him I didn’t care for none, but the Punch-and-Judy man says—‘My missus is very partial to them.’ So the footman asks—‘How will you carry it home?’ I suggested he should put it in his hat, and the foolish fellow, half silly with horns of ale, actually did, and wrapped it up in his pocket-handkerchief. There was a large tumbler full. By and by he cries—‘Lord, how I sweat!’ and there was the stuff running down his hair like so much size. We did laugh, I can assure you.
“Fantoccini has fallen off now. It’s quite different to what it was. I don’t think the people’s tired of it, but it ain’t such a novelty. I could stop up a whole street if I liked, so that nothing could get along, and that shows the people ain’t tired of it. I think it’s the people that gave the half-crowns are tired of it, but those with the ha’pence are as fond of it as ever. As times go, the performance is worth two pounds a-week to me; and if it wasn’t, I couldn’t afford to stop with it, for I’m very clever on the violin, and I could earn more than thirty shillings a-week playing in bands. We still attend evening parties, only it isn’t to princesses, but gentry. We depend more upon evening parties. It isn’t street work, only if we didn’t go round they’d think I was dead. We go to more than thirty parties a-year. We always play according to price, whether it’s fifteen shillings, or ten shillings, or a guinea. We don’t get many five-guinea orders now. The last one was six months ago, to go twenty-eight miles into Kent, to a gentleman’s house. When we go to parties, we take with us a handsome, portable, fold-up frame. The front is beautiful, and by a first-rate artist. The gentleman who done it is at the head of the carriage department at a railway, and there’s the royal arms all in gold, and it stands above ten feet high, and has wings and all, so that the music and everything is invisible. It shuts up like a portfolio. The figures are first-rate ones, and every one dressed according to the country, whatever it may be, she is supposed to represent. They are in the best of material, with satin and lace, and all that’s good.
“When we perform in the streets, we generally go through this programme. We begins with a female hornpipe dancer; then there is a set of quadrilles by some marionette figures, four females and no gentleman. If we did the men we should want assistance, for four is as much as I can hold at once. It would require two men, and the street won’t pay for it. After this we introduces a representation of Mr. Grimaldi the clown, who does tumbling and posturing, and a comic dance, and so forth, such as trying to catch a butterfly. Then comes the enchanted Turk. He comes on in the costume of a Turk, and he throws off his right and left arm, and then his legs, and they each change into different figures, the arms and legs into two boys and girls, a clergyman the head, and an old lady the body. That figure was my own invention, and I could if I like turn him into a dozen; indeed, I’ve got one at home, which turns into a parson in the pulpit, and a clerk under him, and a lot of little charity children, with a form to sit down upon. They are all carved figures, every one of them, and my own make. The next performance is the old lady, and her arms drop off and turn into two figures, and the body becomes a complete balloon and car in a minute, and not a flat thing, but round—and the figures get into the car and up they go. Then there’s the tight-rope dancer, and next the Indian juggler—Ramo Samee, a representation—who chucks the balls about under his feet and under his arms, and catches them on the back of his head, the same as Ramo Samee did. Then there’s the sailor’s hornpipe—Italian Scaramouch (he’s the old style). This one has a long neck, and it shoots up to the top of the theatre. This is the original trick, and a very good one. Then comes the Polander, who balances a pole and two chairs, and stands on his head and jumps over his pole; he dresses like a Spaniard, and in the old style. It takes a quarter of an hour to do that figure well, and make him do all his tricks. Then comes the Skeletons. They’re regular first class, of course. This one also was my invention, and I was the first to make them, and I’m the only one that can make them. They are made of a particular kind of wood. I’m a first-rate carver, and can make my three guineas any day for a skull; indeed, I’ve sold many to dentists to put in their window. It’s very difficult to carve this figure, and takes a deal of time. It takes full two months to make these skeletons. I’ve been offered ten pounds ten shillings for a pair, if I’d make ’em correct according to the human frame. Those I make for exhibiting in the streets, I charge two pounds each for. They’re good, and all the joints is correct, and you may put ’em into what attitudes you like, and they walk like a human being. These figures in my show come up through a trap-door, and perform attitudes, and shiver and lie down, and do imitations of the pictures. It’s a tragic sort of concern, and many ladies won’t have ’em at evening parties, because it frightens the children. Then there’s Judy Callaghan, and that ’livens up after the skeletons. Then six figures jump out of her pockets, and she knocks them about. It’s a sort of comic business. Then the next is a countryman who can’t get his donkey to go, and it kicks at him and throws him off, and all manner of comic antics, after Billy Button’s style. Then I do the skeleton that falls to pieces, and then becomes whole again. Then there’s another out-of-the-way comic figure that falls to pieces similar to the skeleton. He catches hold of his head and chucks it from one hand to the other. We call him the Nondescript. We wind up with a scene in Tom and Jerry. The curtain winds up, and there’s a watchman prowling the streets, and some of those larking gentlemen comes on and pitch into him. He looks round and he can’t see anybody. Presently another comes in and gives him another knock, and then there’s a scuffle, and off they go over the watch-box, and down comes the scene. That makes the juveniles laugh, and finishes up the whole performance merry like.
“I’ve forgot one figure now. I know’d there was another, and that’s the Scotchman who dances the Highland fling. He’s before the watchman. He’s in the regular national costume, everything correct, and everything, and the music plays according to the performance. It’s a beautiful figure when well handled, and the dresses cost something, I can tell you; all the joints are counter-sunk—them figures that shows above the knee. There’s no joints to be seen, all works hidden like, something like Madame Vestris in Don Juan. All my figures have got shoes and stockings on. They have, indeed. If it wasn’t my work, they’d cost a deal of money. One of them is more expensive than all those in Punch and Judy put together. Talk of Punch knocking the Fantoccini down! Mine’s all show; Punch is nothing, and cheap as dirt.
“I’ve also forgot the flower-girl that comes in and dances with a garland. That’s a very pretty figure in a fairy’s dress, in a nice white skirt with naked carved arms, nice modelled, and the legs just the same; and the trunks come above the knee, the same as them ballet girls. She shows all the opera attitudes.
“The performance, to go through the whole of it, takes an hour and a half; and then you mustn’t stand looking at it, but as soon as one thing goes off the music changes and another comes on. That ain’t one third, nor a quarter of what I can do.
“When I’m performing I’m standing behind, looking down upon the stage. All the figures is hanging round on hooks, with all their strings ready for use. It makes your arms ache to work them, and especially across the loins. All the strength you have you must do, and chuck it out too; for those four figures which I uses at evening parties, which dance the polka, weighs six pounds, and that’s to be kept dangling for twenty minutes together. They are two feet high, and their skirts take three quarters of a yard, and are covered with spangles, which gives ’em great weight.
“There are only two of us going about now with Fantoccini shows. Several have tried it, but they had to knock under very soon. They soon lost their money and time. In the first place, they must be musicians to make the figures keep time in the dances; and, again, they must be carvers, for it won’t pay to put the figures out to be done. I had ten pounds the other day only to carve six figures, and the wood only come to three shillings; that’ll give you some idea of what the carving costs.
“Formerly I used to make the round of the watering-places, but I’ve got quite enough to do in London now, and travelling’s very expensive, for the eating and drinking is so very expensive. Now, at Ramsgate I’ve had to pay half-a-guinea for a bed, and that to a man in my position is more than I like. I always pays the man who goes along with me to play the music, because I don’t go out every day, only when it suits me. He gets as good as his twenty-three shillings a-week, according to how business is, and that’s on an average as good as four shillings a-day. If I’m very lucky I makes it better for him, for a man can’t be expected to go and blow his life away into pandean pipes unless he’s well paid for it.”
Leave a Reply