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WEST END TRADESMEN
The art of advertising was then in a very primitive condition. Mrs. Warren, the worthy helpmate of the celebrated blacking-maker, boasted that her husband kept a poet. The art of advertisement was then in its infancy, and verse a novelty when used to puff goods of any kind; artistic posters were unknown. Now, however, we have all become more advanced in such matters, and first-class artists see no harm in lending their aid in the popularization of some article of general consumption.
The prices charged in the West End were stiff, but most people no doubt, taking into consideration. the long credit given, paid them without a murmur. On one occasion, however, a certain tradesman was very wittily informed of a failing which his clients were beginning to resent. One night some burglars broke into the establishment but for some reason or other left empty handed. Talking of the affair to a customer, the proprietor expressed his surprise at having lost nothing. "Not at all surprising," was the reply: "the robbers lighted a lamp, didn't they?"
"Yes."-"Well," said the gentleman, "I suppose they found your goods were marked so high that they couldn't afford to take them."
The relations between men-about-town and West End tradesmen have often given rise to amusing incidents and smart repartees.
In recent times the palm, I think, should be awarded to the well-known and very fashionable bootmaker who, in reply to the somewhat unreasonable complaints of
a big-footed client, retorted, "After all, sir, you must remember I'm here to make boots, not battleships."
The inhabitants of all the streets about Mayfair formerly had their favourite tradesmen whose establishments had been patronized by their families often for several generations. Shops of this kind were occasionally rather unattractive-looking and dingy; but their proprietors, as a rule, sold excellent things, and took great trouble to please the aristocratic patrons whose families had dealt with their grandfathers before them. At the present day, whilst commercial establishments have invaded Grafton Street and the other streets in its vicinity, most of these old-fashioned shops have disappeared, their business having decayed with the advent of the stores and other huge emporiums which are ready to supply almost everything on earth. At the time when the West End, or at least Mayfair, was a sort of family living apart from the rest of London, society had quite a number of usages the origin of which probably dated back to the eighteenth century. One of the chief of these, during the height of the London season, was eating ices outside the still-existing Gunter's in Berkeley Square. Here, on a hot summer's afternoon, were to be seen a considerable number of barouches drawn up near the railings of the square, whilst the occupants regaled themselves upon the refreshing contents of a long glass brought out by a waiter from the still-existing establishment on the other side of the road-this custom endured up to quite recent times.
At the corner of Berkeley Street where it debouches into Berkeley Square one of those oldfashioned crossing-sweepers who were always attired in red coats had his stand. For years a well-known Master of the Buckhounds living in the vicinity used to make a point of giving his cast-off hunting-coat to this individual, who, besides sweeping the crossing, carried messages and ran errands for a very moderate charge. One of his peculiarities was that never by any chance did he ask anyone crossing the road for a contribution; nevertheless he appears to have done very well, for it was said that he left quite a comfortable sum behind him when he died. There were other red-coated sweepers in various streets of the West End, but with the march of progress all of them seem to have disappeared, which, considering that they did no harm and contributed a note of colour to the streets, seems rather a pity.
Talk as we may of the superiority of modern times and the increase of civilization, every day we sink deeper into a frigid utilitarianism. This is especially evident in man's modern dress, which, though no doubt comfortable, is slovenly in the extreme compared with the clothes they wore in my childhood-and, for the matter of that, many years later.
Gone are the blue coats and brass buttons, the broad-brimmed hats, embroidered waistcoats, watch ribbons and seals pendant from the fob.
Rotten Row is no longer the lounge of elaborately dressed dandies, and people ride as well as walk in any
sort of costume they like. In old days, on a fine summer evening the Park was an unrivalled sight, where could be seen all the youth, beauty, and rank of London gorgeously arrayed. Magnificent equipages formed a never-failing source of attraction to idlers, many of whom passed hours in watching the procession going round and round like a stage army. A writer of that day has well described the same "heavy old family coaches," with coachmen and horses to match, and the most wonderful old ladies inside that ever were seen-equipages that crept out year after year with their panels re-varnished and their brasswork relacquered, slowly coming forth like a shoot of an old stump when summer approached, and disappeared again when it was over, together with the old ladies. There was indeed a great variety in the style of the various carriages: new barouches, blazing with escutcheons like theatrical banners, and liveries almost like harlequins, just started by "stuck-up" people living on the borders of the exclusive world, and constantly fighting to pass its frontier; mail-phaetons driven by men-about-town, who had gone round and round the Park for thirty years, and still clung to the peculiar dress of a vanished age; and lastly a number of quiet-looking little broughams containing mysterious occupants about whom there were furtive rumours. Few carriages are to be seen to-day, the wellturned-out barouches and four-in-hands having been supplanted by swift motor-cars and luxurious landaulettes.
One of the greatest changes in London has been the gradual but steady disappearance of the fine carriages and horses for which the West End was once so renowned. The splendid old chariot which almost every family of any rank formerly possessed has, except on a few State occasions, ceased to be seen. Most of these stately vehicles had steps which were let down from the inside by the footman or footmen (most people had two) who stood at the back of the carriage on a sort of board, as the Lord Mayor's footmen still do to-day. Fashionable physicians always had two servants on their box seat. The first to break through this custom was Sir Charles Locock, who took to driving in a high victoria with but a single man. The man of fashion affected a cabriolet with a tiger hanging on behind. Lord Anglesey, of Waterloo fame, drove two horses: his groom, however, had a fairly comfortable seat at the back. This man,
may be added, was a well-known figure in the Row when he rode behind his master-according to current report, he had accumulated quite a comfortable little fortune in a very curious way. Lord Anglesey, as was notorious, had lost the lower portion of one of his legs at Waterloo, but so admirably was its cork substitute adjusted that when the gallant old officer was on horseback it was practically impossible to tell which of his legs was the sham one. Numerous bets were constantly being made on the subject, which as a rule the groom was called in to decide-as has been said, with considerable profit to the man's pocket.