Sonnets For The Fancy: After The Manner Of Petrarch

Sonnets For The Fancy: After The Manner Of Petrarch
c. 1824
From Boxiana, iii. 621. 622.


A link-boy once, Dick Hellfinch stood the grin,
  At Charing Cross he long his toil apply’d;
“Here light, here light! your honours for a win,” 1 penny
  To every cull and drab he loudly cried. 2 man; woman
In Leicester Fields, as most the story know,
  “Come black your worship for a single mag,” 3 half-penny
  And while he shin’d his Nelly suck’d the bag, 4 spent the money
And thus they sometimes stagg’d a precious go. 5 made a lot of money
  In Smithfield, too, where graziers’ flats resort,
He loiter’d there to take in men of cash,
  With cards and dice was up to ev’ry sport,
And at Saltpetre Bank would cut a dash;
  A very knowing rig in ev’ry gang, 6 cute fellow
  Dick Hellfinch was the pick of all the slang. 7 i.e. fraternity


His Nell sat on Newgate steps, and scratch’d her poll,
Her eyes suffus’d with tears, and bung’d with gin;
The Session’s sentence wrung her to the soul,
  Nor could she lounge the gag to shule a win;
The knowing bench had tipp’d her buzer queer, 8 sentenced the pick-pocket
  For Dick had beat the hoof upon the pad,
  Of Field, or Chick-lane—was the boldest lad
That ever mill’d the cly, or roll’d the leer. 9 picked pockets
  And with Nell he kept a lock, to fence, and tuz,
And while his flaming mot was on the lay,
  With rolling kiddies, Dick would dive and buz,
And cracking kens concluded ev’ry day; 10 burgling
  But fortune fickle, ever on the wheel,
  Turn’d up a rubber, for these smarts to feel.


Both’ring the flats assembled round the quod, 11 goal
  The queerum queerly smear’d with dirty black; 12 gallows
The dolman sounding, while the sheriff’s nod,
  Prepare the switcher to dead book the whack,
While in a rattle sit two blowens flash, 13 coach; women
  Salt tears fast streaming from each bungy eye;
  To nail the ticker, or to mill the cly 14 steal a watch; pick a pocket
Through thick and thin their busy muzzlers splash,
  The mots lament for Tyburn’s merry roam,
That bubbl’d prigs must at the New Drop fall, 15 Newgate
  And from the start the scamps are cropp’d at home;
All in the sheriff’s picture frame the call 16 hangman’s noose
  Exalted high, Dick parted with his flame,
  And all his comrades swore that he dy’d game.


Pierce Egan, the author of the adventures of Tom and Jerry was born about 1772 and died in 1849. He had won his spurs as a sporting reporter by 1812, and for eleven years was recognised as one of the smartest of the epigrammatists, song-writers, and wits of the time. Boxiana, a monthly serial, was commenced in 1818. It consisted of ‘Sketches of Modern Pugilism’, giving memoirs and portraits of all the most celebrated pugilists, contemporary and antecedent, with full reports of their respective prize-fights, victories, and defeats, told with so much spirited humour, yet with such close attention to accuracy, that the work holds a unique position. It was continued in several volumes, with copperplates, to 1824. At this date, having seen that Londoners read with avidity his accounts of country sports and pastimes, he conceived the idea of a similar description of the amusements pursued by sporting men in town. Accordingly he announced the publication of Life in London in shilling numbers, monthly, and secured the aid of George Cruikshank, and his brother, Isaac Robert Cruikshank, to draw and engrave the illustrations in aquatint, to be coloured by hand. George IV had caused Egan to be presented at court, and at once accepted the dedication of the forthcoming work. This was the more generous on the king’s part because he must have known himself to have been often satirised and caricatured mercilessly in the Green Bag literature by G. Cruikshank, the intended illustrator. On 15 July 1821 appeared the first number of Life in London; or, ’The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq., and his elegant friend, Corinthian Jem, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis.’ The success was instantaneous and unprecedented. It took both town and country by storm. So great was the demand for copies, increasing with the publication of each successive number, month by month, that the colourists could not keep pace with the printers. The alternate scenes of high life and low life, the contrasted characters, and revelations of misery side by side with prodigal waste and folly, attracted attention, while the vivacity of dialogue and description never flagged.

Stanza III, line 10. New Drop. The extreme penalty of the law, long carried out at Tyburn (near the Marble Arch corner of Hyde Park), was ultimately transferred to Newgate. The lament for “Tyburn’s merry roam” was, without doubt, heart-felt and characteristic. Executions were then one of the best of all good excuses for a picnic and jollification. Yet the change of scene to Newgate does not appear to have detracted much from these functions as shows. “Newgate to-day,” says a recent writer in The Daily Mail, is little wanted, and all but vacant, as a general rule. In former days enormous crowds were herded together indiscriminately—young and old, innocent and guilty, men, women, and children, the heinous offender, and the neophyte in crime. The worst part of the prison was the “Press Yard,” the place then allotted to convicts cast for death. There were as many as sixty or seventy sometimes within these narrow limits, and most were kept six months and more thus hovering between a wretched existence and a shameful death. Men in momentary expectation of being hanged rubbed shoulders with others still hoping for reprieve. If the first were seriously inclined, they were quite debarred from private religious meditation, but consorted, perforce, with reckless ruffians, who played leap-frog, and swore and drank continually. Infants of tender years were among the condemned; lunatics, too, raged furiously through the Press Yard, and were a constant annoyance and danger to all. The “condemned sermon” in the prison chapel drew a crowd of fashionable folk, to stare at those who were to die, packed together in a long pew hung with black, and on a table in front was placed an open coffin. Outside, in the Old Bailey, on the days of execution, the awful scenes nearly baffle description. Thousands collected to gloat over the dying struggles of the criminals, and fought and roared and trampled each other to death in their horrible eagerness, so that hundreds were wounded or killed. Ten or a dozen were sometimes hanged in a row, men and women side by side.

Taken from Musa Pedestris, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536―1896], collected and annotated by John S. Farmer.

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. . .
The Sandman’s Wedding
The Happy Pair
The Bunter’s Christening
The Masqueraders
The Flash Man of St. Giles
A Leary Mot
The Night Before Larry was Stretched
The Song of the Young Prig
The Milling Match
Ya-Hip, My Hearties!
Sonnets For The Fancy: After The Manner Of Petrarch
The True Bottom’d Boxer
Bobby And His Mary
Flashey Joe
My Mugging Maid
Poor Luddy
The Pickpocket’s Chaunt
On the Prigging Lay
The Lag’s Lament
Nix My Doll, Pals, Fake Away
The Game Of High Toby
. . .