Sketches by Boz HTML version

1. The Streets - Morning
The appearance presented by the streets of London an hour before sunrise, on a
summer's morning, is most striking even to the few whose unfortunate pursuits of
pleasure, or scarcely less unfortunate pursuits of business, cause them to be well
acquainted with the scene. There is an air of cold, solitary desolation about the
noiseless streets which we are accustomed to see thronged at other times by a busy,
eager crowd, and over the quiet, closely- shut buildings, which throughout the day are
swarming with life and bustle, that is very impressive.
The last drunken man, who shall find his way home before sunlight, has just staggered
heavily along, roaring out the burden of the drinking song of the previous night: the last
houseless vagrant whom penury and police have left in the streets, has coiled up his
chilly limbs in some paved comer, to dream of food and warmth. The drunken, the
dissipated, and the wretched have disappeared; the more sober and orderly part of the
population have not yet awakened to the labours of the day, and the stillness of death is
over the streets; its very hue seems to be imparted to them, cold and lifeless as they
look in the grey, sombre light of daybreak. The coach-stands in the larger thoroughfares
are deserted: the night- houses are closed; and the chosen promenades of profligate
misery are empty.
An occasional policeman may alone be seen at the street corners, listlessly gazing on
the deserted prospect before him; and now and then a rakish-looking cat runs stealthily
across the road and descends his own area with as much caution and slyness -
bounding first on the water-butt, then on the dust-hole, and then alighting on the flag-
stones - as if he were conscious that his character depended on his gallantry of the
preceding night escaping public observation. A partially opened bedroom-window here
and there, bespeaks the heat of the weather, and the uneasy slumbers of its occupant;
and the dim scanty flicker of the rushlight, through the window-blind, denotes the
chamber of watching or sickness. With these few exceptions, the streets present no
signs of life, nor the houses of habitation.
An hour wears away; the spires of the churches and roofs of the principal buildings are
faintly tinged with the light of the rising sun; and the streets, by almost imperceptible
degrees, begin to resume their bustle and animation. Market-carts roll slowly along: the
sleepy waggoner impatiently urging on his tired horses, or vainly endeavouring to