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Sketches by Boz

6. Meditations in Monmouth-Street
We have always entertained a particular attachment towards Monmouth-street, as the
only true and real emporium for second-hand wearing apparel. Monmouth-street is
venerable from its antiquity, and respectable from its usefulness. Holywell-street we
despise; the red-headed and red-whiskered Jews who forcibly haul you into their
squalid houses, and thrust you into a suit of clothes, whether you will or not, we detest.
The inhabitants of Monmouth-street are a distinct class; a peaceable and retiring race,
who immure themselves for the most part in deep cellars, or small back parlours, and
who seldom come forth into the world, except in the dusk and coolness of the evening,
when they may be seen seated, in chairs on the pavement, smoking their pipes, or
watching the gambols of their engaging children as they revel in the gutter, a happy
troop of infantine scavengers. Their countenances bear a thoughtful and a dirty cast,
certain indications of their love of traffic; and their habitations are distinguished by that
disregard of outward appearance and neglect of personal comfort, so common among
people who are constantly immersed in profound speculations, and deeply engaged in
sedentary pursuits.
We have hinted at the antiquity of our favourite spot. 'A Monmouth-street laced coat'
was a by-word a century ago; and still we find Monmouth-street the same. Pilot great-
coats with wooden buttons, have usurped the place of the ponderous laced coats with
full skirts; embroidered waistcoats with large flaps, have yielded to double-breasted
checks with roll-collars; and three-cornered hats of quaint appearance, have given place
to the low crowns and broad brims of the coachman school; but it is the times that have
changed, not Monmouth-street. Through every alteration and every change, Monmouth-
street has still remained the burial-place of the fashions; and such, to judge from all
present appearances, it will remain until there are no more fashions to bury.
We love to walk among these extensive groves of the illustrious dead, and to indulge in
the speculations to which they give rise; now fitting a deceased coat, then a dead pair of
trousers, and anon the mortal remains of a gaudy waistcoat, upon some being of our
own conjuring up, and endeavouring, from the shape and fashion of the garment itself,
to bring its former owner before our mind's eye. We have gone on speculating in this
way, until whole rows of coats have started from their pegs, and buttoned up, of their
own accord, round the waists of imaginary wearers; lines of trousers have jumped down
to meet them; waistcoats have almost burst with anxiety to put themselves on; and half
an acre of shoes have suddenly found feet to fit them, and gone stumping down the
street with a noise which has fairly awakened us from our pleasant reverie, and driven
us slowly away, with a bewildered stare, an object of astonishment to the good people
 
 
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