Sketches by Boz
7. Our Next-Door Neighbour
We are very fond of speculating as we walk through a street, on the character and
pursuits of the people who inhabit it; and nothing so materially assists us in these
speculations as the appearance of the house doors. The various expressions of the
human countenance afford a beautiful and interesting study; but there is something in
the physiognomy of street-door knockers, almost as characteristic, and nearly as
infallible. Whenever we visit a man for the first time, we contemplate the features of his
knocker with the greatest curiosity, for we well know, that between the man and his
knocker, there will inevitably be a greater or less degree of resemblance and sympathy.
For instance, there is one description of knocker that used to be common enough, but
which is fast passing away - a large round one, with the jolly face of a convivial lion
smiling blandly at you, as you twist the sides of your hair into a curl or pull up your shirt-
collar while you are waiting for the door to be opened; we never saw that knocker on the
door of a churlish man - so far as our experience is concerned, it invariably bespoke
hospitality and another bottle.
No man ever saw this knocker on the door of a small attorney or bill-broker; they always
patronise the other lion; a heavy ferocious-looking fellow, with a countenance
expressive of savage stupidity - a sort of grand master among the knockers, and a great
favourite with the selfish and brutal.
Then there is a little pert Egyptian knocker, with a long thin face, a pinched-up nose,
and a very sharp chin; he is most in vogue with your government-office people, in light
drabs and starched cravats; little spare, priggish men, who are perfectly satisfied with
their own opinions, and consider themselves of paramount importance.
We were greatly troubled a few years ago, by the innovation of a new kind of knocker,
without any face at all, composed of a wreath depending from a hand or small
truncheon. A little trouble and attention, however, enabled us to overcome this difficulty,
and to reconcile the new system to our favourite theory. You will invariably find this
knocker on the doors of cold and formal people, who always ask you why you DON'T
come, and never say DO.
Everybody knows the brass knocker is common to suburban villas, and extensive
boarding-schools; and having noticed this genus we have recapitulated all the most
prominent and strongly-defined species.
Some phrenologists affirm, that the agitation of a man's brain by different passions,
produces corresponding developments in the form of his skull. Do not let us be