Sketches by Boz HTML version

9. London Recreations
The wish of persons in the humbler classes of life, to ape the manners and customs of
those whom fortune has placed above them, is often the subject of remark, and not
unfrequently of complaint. The inclination may, and no doubt does, exist to a great
extent, among the small gentility - the would-be aristocrats - of the middle classes.
Tradesmen and clerks, with fashionable novel- reading families, and circulating-library-
subscribing daughters, get up small assemblies in humble imitation of Almack's, and
promenade the dingy 'large room' of some second-rate hotel with as much complacency
as the enviable few who are privileged to exhibit their magnificence in that exclusive
haunt of fashion and foolery. Aspiring young ladies, who read flaming accounts of some
'fancy fair in high life,' suddenly grow desperately charitable; visions of admiration and
matrimony float before their eyes; some wonderfully meritorious institution, which, by
the strangest accident in the world, has never been heard of before, is discovered to be
in a languishing condition: Thomson's great room, or Johnson's nursery-ground, is
forthwith engaged, and the aforesaid young ladies, from mere charity, exhibit
themselves for three days, from twelve to four, for the small charge of one shilling per
head! With the exception of these classes of society, however, and a few weak and
insignificant persons, we do not think the attempt at imitation to which we have alluded,
prevails in any great degree. The different character of the recreations of different
classes, has often afforded us amusement; and we have chosen it for the subject of our
present sketch, in the hope that it may possess some amusement for our readers.
If the regular City man, who leaves Lloyd's at five o'clock, and drives home to Hackney,
Clapton, Stamford-hill, or elsewhere, can be said to have any daily recreation beyond
his dinner, it is his garden. He never does anything to it with his own hands; but he
takes great pride in it notwithstanding; and if you are desirous of paying your addresses
to the youngest daughter, be sure to be in raptures with every flower and shrub it
contains. If your poverty of expression compel you to make any distinction between the
two, we would certainly recommend your bestowing more admiration on his garden than
his wine. He always takes a walk round it, before he starts for town in the morning, and
is particularly anxious that the fish-pond should be kept specially neat. If you call on him
on Sunday in summer-time, about an hour before dinner, you will find him sitting in an
arm-chair, on the lawn behind the house, with a straw hat on, reading a Sunday paper.
A short distance from him you will most likely observe a handsome paroquet in a large
brass- wire cage; ten to one but the two eldest girls are loitering in one of the side walks
accompanied by a couple of young gentlemen, who are holding parasols over them - of
course only to keep the sun off - while the younger children, with the under nursery-
maid, are strolling listlessly about, in the shade. Beyond these occasions, his delight in