Sketches by Boz HTML version

2. The Streets - Night
But the streets of London, to be beheld in the very height of their glory, should be seen
on a dark, dull, murky winter's night, when there is just enough damp gently stealing
down to make the pavement greasy, without cleansing it of any of its impurities; and
when the heavy lazy mist, which hangs over every object, makes the gas-lamps look
brighter, and the brilliantly-lighted shops more splendid, from the contrast they present
to the darkness around. All the people who are at home on such a night as this, seem
disposed to make themselves as snug and comfortable as possible; and the
passengers in the streets have excellent reason to envy the fortunate individuals who
are seated by their own firesides.
In the larger and better kind of streets, dining parlour curtains are closely drawn, kitchen
fires blaze brightly up, and savoury steams of hot dinners salute the nostrils of the
hungry wayfarer, as he plods wearily by the area railings. In the suburbs, the muffin boy
rings his way down the little street, much more slowly than he is wont to do; for Mrs.
Macklin, of No. 4, has no sooner opened her little street-door, and screamed out
'Muffins!' with all her might, than Mrs. Walker, at No. 5, puts her head out of the parlour-
window, and screams 'Muffins!' too; and Mrs. Walker has scarcely got the words out of
her lips, than Mrs. Peplow, over the way, lets loose Master Peplow, who darts down the
street, with a velocity which nothing but buttered muffins in perspective could possibly
inspire, and drags the boy back by main force, whereupon Mrs. Macklin and Mrs.
Walker, just to save the boy trouble, and to say a few neighbourly words to Mrs. Peplow
at the same time, run over the way and buy their muffins at Mrs. Peplow's door, when it
appears from the voluntary statement of Mrs. Walker, that her 'kittle's jist a-biling, and
the cups and sarsers ready laid,' and that, as it was such a wretched night out o' doors,
she'd made up her mind to have a nice, hot, comfortable cup o' tea - a determination at
which, by the most singular coincidence, the other two ladies had simultaneously
After a little conversation about the wretchedness of the weather and the merits of tea,
with a digression relative to the viciousness of boys as a rule, and the amiability of
Master Peplow as an exception, Mrs. Walker sees her husband coming down the street;
and as he must want his tea, poor man, after his dirty walk from the Docks, she instantly
runs across, muffins in hand, and Mrs. Macklin does the same, and after a few words to
Mrs. Walker, they all pop into their little houses, and slam their little street-doors, which
are not opened again for the remainder of the evening, except to the nine o'clock 'beer,'
who comes round with a lantern in front of his tray, and says, as he lends Mrs. Walker
'Yesterday's 'Tiser,' that he's blessed if he can hardly hold the pot, much less feel the