Many a learned man may smile at the ignorance of the Peruvian and the Hindoo, unconscious that he himself is just as ignorant and as prejudiced. Who does not remember the outcry against the science of geology, which has hardly yet subsided? Its professors were impiously and absurdly accused of designing to "hurl the Creator from his throne." They were charged with sapping the foundations of religion, and of propping atheism by the aid of a pretended science.
The very same principle which leads to the rejection of the true, leads to the encouragement of the false. Thus we may account for the success which has attended great impostors, at times when the truth, though not half so wondrous as their impositions, has been disregarded as extravagant and preposterous. The man who wishes to cheat the people, must needs found his operations upon some prejudice or belief that already exists. Thus the philosophic pretenders who told fortunes by the stars cured all diseases by one nostrum, and preserved from evil by charms and amulets, ran with the current of popular belief. Errors that were consecrated by time and long familiarity, they heightened and embellished, and succeeded to their hearts' content; but the preacher of truth had a foundation to make as well as a superstructure, a difficulty which did not exist for the preacher of error. Columbus preached a new world, but was met with distrust and incredulity; had he preached with as much zeal and earnestness the discovery of some valley in the old one, where diamonds hung upon the trees, or a herb grew that cured all the ills incidental to humanity, he would have found a warm and hearty welcome — might have sold dried cabbage leaves for his wonderful herb, and made his fortune.
In fact, it will be found in the history of every generation and race of men, that whenever a choice of belief between the "Wondrously False" and the "Wondrously True" is given to ignorance or prejudice, that their choice will be fixed upon the first, for the reason that it is most akin to their own nature. The great majority of mankind, and even of the wisest among us, are still in the condition of the sailor's mother — believing and disbelieving on the same grounds that she did — protesting against the flying fish, but cherishing the golden wheels. Thousands there are amongst us, who, rather than pin their faith in the one fish, would believe not only in the wheel of gold, but the chariot - not only in the chariot, but in the horses and the driver.
POPULAR FOLLIES IN GREAT CITIES
La faridondaine — la faridondon, Vive la faridondaine!
The popular humours of a great city are a never-failing source of amusement to the man whose sympathies are hospitable enough to embrace all his kind, and who, refined though he may be himself, will not sneer at the humble wit or grotesque peculiarities of the boozing mechanic, the squalid beggar, the vicious urchin, and all the motley group of the idle, the reckless, and the imitative that swarm in the alleys and broadways of a metropolis. He who walks through a great city to find subjects for weeping, may, God knows, find plenty at every corner to wring his heart; but let such a man walk on his course, and enjoy his grief alone — we are not of those who would accompany him. The miseries of us poor earthdwellers gain no alleviation from the sympathy of those who merely hunt them out to be pathetic over them. The weeping philosopher too often impairs his eyesight by his woe, and becomes unable from his tears to see the remedies for the evils which he deplores. Thus it will often be found that the man of no tears is the truest philanthropist, as he is the best physician who wears a cheerful face, even in the worst of cases.
So many pens have been employed to point out the miseries, and so many to condemn the crimes and vices, and more serious follies of the multitude, that our's shall not increase the number, at least in this chapter. Our present task shall be less ungracious, and wandering through the busy haunts of great cities, we shall seek only for amusement, and note as we pass a few of the harmless follies and whimsies of the poor.
And, first of all, walk where we will, we cannot help hearing from every side a phrase repeated with delight, and received with laughter, by men with hard hands and dirty faces — by saucy butcher lads and errand-boys — by loose women — by hackney coachmen, cabriolet drivers, and idle fellows who loiter at the corners of streets. Not one utters this phrase without producing a laugh from all within hearing. It seems applicable to every circumstance, and is the universal answer to every question; in short, it is the favourite slang phrase of the day, a phrase that, while its brief season of popularity lasts, throws a dash of fun and frolicsomeness over the existence of squalid poverty and ill-requited labour, and gives them reason to laugh as well as their more fortunate fellows in a higher stage of society.
London is peculiarly fertile in this sort of phrases, which spring up suddenly, no one knows exactly in what spot, and pervade the whole population in a few hours, no one knows how. Many years ago the favourite phrase (for, though but a monosyllable, it was a phrase in itself) was Quoz. This odd word took the fancy of the multitude in an extraordinary degree, and very soon acquired an almost boundless meaning. When vulgar wit wished to mark its incredulity and raise a laugh at the same time, there was no resource so sure as this popular piece of slang. When a man was asked a favour which he did not choose to grant, he marked his sense of the suitor's unparalleled presumption by exclaiming Quoz! When a mischievous urchin wished to annoy a passenger, and create mirth for his chums, he looked him in the face, and cried out Quoz! and the exclamation never failed in its object. When a disputant was desirous of throwing a doubt upon the veracity of his opponent, and getting summarily rid of an argument which he could not overturn, he uttered the word Quoz, with a contemptuous curl of his lip and an impatient shrug of his shoulders. The universal monosyllable conveyed all his meaning, and not only told his opponent that he lied, but that he erred egregiously if he thought that any one was such a nincompoop as to believe him. Every alehouse resounded with Quoz; every street corner was noisy with it, and every wall for miles around was chalked with it.
But, like all other earthly things, Quoz had its season, and passed away as suddenly as it arose, never again to be the pet and the idol of the populace. A new claimant drove it from its place, and held undisputed sway till, in its turn, it was hurled from its pre-eminence, and a successor appointed in its stead.
"What a shocking bad hat!" was the phrase that was next in vogue. No sooner had it become universal, than thousands of idle but sharp eyes were on the watch for the passenger whose hat showed any signs, however slight, of ancient service. Immediately the cry arose, and, like the what-whoop of the Indians, was repeated by a hundred discordant throats. He was a wise man who, finding himself under these circumstances "the observed of all observers," bore his honours meekly. He who showed symptoms of ill-feeling at the imputations cast upon his hat, only brought upon himself redoubled notice. The mob soon perceive whether a man is irritable, and, if of their own class, they love to make sport of him. When such a man, and with such a hat, passed in those days through a crowded neighbourhood, he might think himself fortunate if his annoyances were confined to the shouts and cries of the populace. The obnoxious hat was often snatched from his head, and thrown into the gutter by some practical joker, and then raised, covered with mud, upon the end of a stick, for the admiration of the spectators, who held their sides with laughter, and exclaimed in the pauses of their mirth, "Oh! what a shocking bad hat! .... What a shocking bad hat!" Many a nervous, poor man, whose purse could but ill spare the outlay, doubtless purchased a new hat before the time, in order to avoid exposure in this manner.
The origin of this singular saying, which made fun for the metropolis for months, is not involved in the same obscurity as that which shrouds the origin of Quoz and some others. There had been a hotly-contested election for the borough of Southwark, and one of the candidates was an eminent hatter. This gentleman, in canvassing the electors, adopted a somewhat professional mode of conciliating their good-will, and of bribing them without letting them perceive that they were bribed. Whenever he called upon or met a voter whose hat was not of the best material, or, being so, had seen its best days, he invariably said, "What a shocking bad hat you have got; call at my warehouse, and you shall have a new one!" Upon the day of election this circumstance was remembered, and his opponents made the most of it, by inciting the crowd to keep up an incessant cry of "What a shocking bad hat!" all the time the honourable candidate was addressing them. From Southwark the phrase spread over all London, and reigned, for a time, the supreme slang of the season.
Hookey Walker, derived from the chorus of a popular ballad, was also high in favour at one time, and served, like its predecessor, Quoz, to answer all questions. In the course of time the latter word alone became the favourite, and was uttered with a peculiar drawl upon the first syllable, and a sharp turn upon the last. If a lively servant girl was importuned for a kiss by a fellow she did not care about, she cocked her little nose, and cried "Walker!" If a dustman asked his friend for the loan of a shilling, and his friend was either unable or unwilling to accommodate him, the probable answer he would receive was "Walker!" If a drunken man was reeling along the streets, and a boy pulled his coat-tails, or a man knocked his hat over his eyes to make fun of him, the joke was always accompanied by the same exclamation. This lasted for two or three months, and "Walker!" walked off the stage, never more to be revived for the entertainment of that or any future generation.
The next phrase was a most preposterous one. Who invented it, how it arose, or where it was first heard, are alike unknown. Nothing about it is certain, but that for months it was the slang par excellence of the Londoners, and afforded them a vast gratification. "There he goes with his eye out!" or "There she goes with her eye out!" as the sex of the party alluded to might be, was in the mouth of everybody who knew the town. The sober part of the community were as much puzzled by this unaccountable saying as the vulgar were delighted with it. The wise thought it very foolish, but the many thought it very funny, and the idle amused themselves by chalking it upon walls, or scribbling it upon monuments. But, "all that's bright must fade," even in slang. The people grew tired of their hobby, and "There he goes with his eye out!" was heard no more in its accustomed haunts.
Another very odd phrase came into repute in a brief space afterwards, in the form of the impertinent and not universally apposite query, "Has your mother sold her mangle?" But its popularity was not of that boisterous and cordial kind which ensures a long continuance of favour. What tended to impede its progress was, that it could not be well applied to the older portions of society. It consequently ran but a brief career, and then sank into oblivion. Its successor enjoyed a more extended fame, and laid its foundations so deep, that years and changing fashions have not sufficed to eradicate it. This phrase was "Flare up!" and it is, even now, a colloquialism in common use. It took its rise in the time of the Reform riots, when Bristol was nearly half burned by the infuriated populace. The flames were said to have flared up in the devoted city. Whether there was anything peculiarly captivating in the sound, or in the idea of these words, is hard to say; but whatever was the reason, it tickled the mob-fancy mightily, and drove all other slang out of the field before it. Nothing was to be heard all over London but "flare up!" It answered all questions, settled all disputes, was applied to all persons, all things, and all circumstances, and became suddenly the most comprehensive phrase in the English language. The man who had overstepped the bounds of decorum in his speech was said to have flared up; he who had paid visits too repeated to the gin-shop, and got damaged in consequence, had flared up. To put one's-self into a passion; to stroll out on a nocturnal frolic, and alarm a neighbourhood, or to create a disturbance in any shape, was to flare up. A lovers' quarrel was a fare up; so was a boxing-match between two blackguards in the streets, and the preachers of sedition and revolution recommended the English nation to flare up, like the French. So great a favourite was the word, that people loved to repeat it for its very sound. They delighted apparently in hearing their own organs articulate it; and labouring men, when none who could respond to the call were within hearing, would often startle the aristocratic echoes of the West by the well-known slang phrase of the East. Even in the dead hours of the night, the ears of those who watched late, or who could not sleep, were saluted with the same sound. The drunkard reeling home showed that he was still a man and a citizen, by calling "flare up" in the pauses of his hiccough. Drink had deprived him of the power of arranging all other ideas; his intellect was sunk to the level of the brute's; but he clung to humanity by the one last link of the popular cry. While he could vociferate that sound, he had rights as an Englishman, and would not sleep in a gutter, like a dog! Onwards he went, disturbing quiet streets and comfortable people by his whoop, till exhausted nature could support him no more, and he rolled powerless into the road. When, in due time afterwards, the policeman stumbled upon him as he lay, that guardian of the peace turned the full light of his lantern on his face, and exclaimed, "Here's a poor devil who's been flaring up!" Then came the stretcher, on which the victim of deep potations was carried to the watchhouse, and pitched into a dirty cell, among a score of wretches about as far gone as himself, who saluted their new comrade by a loud, long shout of flare up!
So universal was this phrase, and so enduring seemed its popularity, that a speculator, who knew not the evanescence of slang, established a weekly newspaper under its name. But he was like the man who built his house upon the sand; his foundation gave way under him, and the phrase and the newspaper were washed into the mighty sea of the things that were. The people grew at last weary of the monotony, and "flare up" became vulgar even among them. Gradually it was left to little boys who did not know the world, and in process of time sank altogether into neglect. It is now heard no more as a piece of popular slang; but the words are still used to signify any sudden outburst either of fire, disturbance, or ill-nature.
The next phrase that enjoyed the favour of the million was less concise, and seems to have been originally aimed against precocious youths who gave themselves the airs of manhood before their time. "Does your mother know you're out?" was the provoking query addressed to young men of more than reasonable swagger, who smoked cigars in the streets, and wore false whiskers to look irresistible. We have seen many a conceited fellow who could not suffer a woman to pass him without staring her out of countenance, reduced at once into his natural insignificance by the mere utterance of this phrase. Apprentice lads and shopmen in their Sunday clothes held the words in abhorrence, and looked fierce when they were applied to them. Altogether the phrase had a very salutary effect, and in a thousand instances showed young Vanity, that it was not half so pretty and engaging as it thought itself. What rendered it so provoking was the doubt it implied as to the capability of self-guidance possessed by the individual to whom it was addressed. "Does your mother know you're out?" was a query of mock concern and solicitude, implying regret and concern that one so young and inexperienced in the ways of a great city should be allowed to wander abroad without the guidance of a parent. Hence the great wrath of those who verged on manhood, but had not reached it, whenever they were made the subject of it. Even older heads did not like it; and the heir of a ducal house, and inheritor of a warrior's name, to whom they were applied by a cabriolet driver, who was ignorant of his rank, was so indignant at the affront, that he summoned the offender before the magisterial bench. The fellow had wished to impose upon his Lordship by asking double the fare he was entitled to, and when his Lordship resisted the demand, he was insultingly asked "if his mother knew he was out?" All the drivers on the stand joined in the query, and his Lordship was fain to escape their laughter by walking away with as much haste as his dignity would allow. The man pleaded ignorance that his customer was a Lord, but offended justice fined him for his mistake.
When this phrase had numbered its appointed days, it died away, like its predecessors, and "Who are you?" reigned in its stead. This new favourite, like a mushroom, seems to have sprung up in a night, or, like a frog in Cheapside, to have come down in a sudden shower. One day it was unheard, unknown, uninvented; the next it pervaded London; every alley resounded with it; every highway was musical with it,
"And street to street, and lane to lane flung back The one unvarying cry."
The phrase was uttered quickly, and with a sharp sound upon the first and last words, leaving the middle one little more than an aspiration. Like all its compeers which had been extensively popular, it was applicable to almost every variety of circumstance. The lovers of a plain answer to a plain question did not like it at all. Insolence made use of it to give offence; ignorance, to avoid exposing itself; and waggery, to create laughter. Every new comer into an alehouse tap-room was asked unceremoniously, "Who are you?" and if he looked foolish, scratched his head, and did not know what to reply, shouts of boisterous merriment resounded on every side. An authoritative disputant was not unfrequently put down, and presumption of every kind checked by the same query. When its popularity was at its height, a gentleman, feeling the hand of a thief in his pocket, turned suddenly round, and caught him in the act, exclaiming, "Who are you?" The mob which gathered round applauded to the very echo, and thought it the most capital joke they had ever heard — the very acme of wit — the very essence of humour. Another circumstance, of a similar kind, gave an additional fillip to the phrase, and infused new life and vigour into it, just as it was dying away. The scene occurred in the chief criminal court of the kingdom. A prisoner stood at the bar; the offence with which he had been charged was clearly proved against him; his counsel had been heard, not in his defence, but in extenuation, insisting upon his previous good life and character, as reasons for the lenity of the court. "And where are your witnesses?" inquired the learned judge who presided. "Please you, my Lord, I knows the prisoner at the bar, and a more honester feller never breathed," said a rough voice in the gallery. The officers of the court looked aghast, and the strangers tittered with ill-suppressed laughter. "Who are you?" said the Judge, looking suddenly up, but with imperturbable gravity. The court was convulsed; the titter broke out into a laugh, and it was several minutes before silence and decorum could be restored. When the Ushers recovered their self-possession, they made diligent search for the profane transgressor; but he was not to be found. Nobody knew him; nobody had seen him. After a while the business of the court again proceeded. The next prisoner brought up for trial augured favourably of his prospects when he learned that the solemn lips of the representative of justice had uttered the popular phrase as if he felt and appreciated it. There was no fear that such a judge would use undue severity; his heart was with the people; he understood their language and their manners, and would make allowances for the temptations which drove them into crime. So thought many of the prisoners, if we may infer it from the fact, that the learned judge suddenly acquired an immense increase of popularity. The praise of his wit was in every mouth, and "Who are you?" renewed its lease, and remained in possession of public favour for another term in consequence.
But it must not be supposed that there were no interregni between the dominion of one slang phrase and another. They did not arise in one long line of unbroken succession, but shared with song the possession of popular favour. Thus, when the people were in the mood for music, slang advanced its claims to no purpose, and, when they were inclined for slang, the sweet voice of music wooed them in vain. About twenty years ago London resounded with one chorus, with the love of which everybody seemed to be smitten. Girls and boys, young men and old, maidens and wives, and widows, were all alike musical. There was an absolute mania for singing, and the worst of it was, that, like good Father Philip, in the romance of "The Monastery," they seemed utterly unable to change their tune. "Cherry ripe!" "Cherry ripe!" was the universal cry of all the idle in the town. Every unmelodious voice gave utterance to it; every crazy fiddle, every cracked flute, every wheezy pipe, every street organ was heard in the same strain, until studious and quiet men stopped their ears in desperation, or fled miles away into the fields or woodlands, to be at peace. This plague lasted for a twelvemonth, until the very name of cherries became an abomination in the land. At last the excitement wore itself away, and the tide of favour set in a new direction. Whether it was another song or a slang phrase, is difficult to determine at this distance of time; but certain it is, that very shortly afterwards, people went mad upon a dramatic subject, and nothing was to be heard of but "Tom and Jerry." Verbal wit had amused the multitude long enough, and they became more practical in their recreation. Every youth on the town was seized with the fierce desire of distinguishing himself, by knocking down the "charlies," being locked up all night in a watchhouse, or kicking up a row among loose women and blackguard men in the low dens of St. Giles's. Imitative boys vied with their elders in similar exploits, until this unworthy passion, for such it was, had lasted, like other follies, its appointed time, and the town became merry after another fashion. It was next thought the height of vulgar wit to answer all questions by placing the point of the thumb upon the tip of the nose, and twirling the fingers in the air. If one man wished to insult or annoy another, he had only to make use of this cabalistic sign in his face, and his object was accomplished. At every street corner where a group was assem- bled, the spectator who was curious enough to observe their movements, would be sure to see the fingers of some of them at their noses, either as a mark of incredulity, surprise, refusal, or mockery, before he had watched two minutes. There is some remnant of this absurd custom to be seen to this day; but it is thought low, even among the vulgar.
About six years ago, London became again most preposterously musical. The vox populi wore itself hoarse by singing the praises of "The Sea, the Sea!" If a stranger (and a philosopher) had walked through London, and listened to the universal chorus, he might have constructed a very pretty theory upon the love of the English for the sea-service, and our acknowledged superiority over all other nations upon that element. "No wonder," he might have said, "that this people is invincible upon the ocean. The love of it mixes with their daily thoughts: they celebrate it even in the market-place: their street-minstrels excite charity by it; and high and low, young and old, male and female, chant Io paeans in its praise. Love is not honoured in the national songs of this warlike race — Bacchus is no god to them; they are men of sterner mould, and think only of 'the Sea, the Sea!' and the means of conquering upon it."
Such would, doubtless, have been his impression if he had taken the evidence only of his ears. Alas! in those days for the refined ears that were musical! great was their torture when discord, with its thousand diversities of tone, struck up this appalling anthem — there was no escape from it. The migratory minstrels of Savoy caught the strain, and pealed it down the long vistas of quiet streets, till their innermost and snuggest apartments re-echoed with the sound. Men were obliged to endure this crying evil for full six months, wearied to desperation, and made sea-sick on the dry land.
Several other songs sprang up in due succession afterwards, but none of them, with the exception of one, entitled "All round my Hat," enjoyed any extraordinary share of favour, until an American actor introduced a vile song called "Jim Crow." The singer sang his verses in appropriate costume, with grotesque gesticulations, and a sudden whirl of his body at the close of each verse. It took the taste of the town immediately, and for months the ears of orderly people were stunned by the senseless chorus-
"Turn about and wheel about, And do just so— Turn about and wheel about, And jump, Jim Crow!"
Street-minstrels blackened their faces in order to give proper effect to the verses; and fatherless urchins, who had to choose between thieving and singing for their livelihood, took the latter course, as likely to be the more profitable, as long as the public taste remained in that direction. The uncouth dance, its accompaniment, might be seen in its full perfection on market nights in any great thoroughfare; and the words of the song might be heard, piercing above all the din and buzz of the ever-moving multitude. He, the calm observer, who during the hey-day popularity of this doggrel,
"Sate beside the public way, Thick strewn with summer dust, and saw the stream Of people there was hurrying to and fro, Numerous as gnats upon the evening gleam,"
might have exclaimed with Shelley, whose fine lines we quote, that
"The million, with fierce song and maniac dance, Did rage around."
The philosophic theorist we have already supposed soliloquising upon the English character, and forming his opinion of it from their exceeding love for a sea-song, might, if he had again dropped suddenly into London, have formed another very plausible theory to account for our unremitting efforts for the abolition of the Slave Trade. "Benevolent people!" he might have said, "how unbounded are your sympathies! Your unhappy brethren of Africa, differing from you only in the colour of their skins, are so dear to you, and you begrudge so little the twenty millions you have paid on their behalf, that you love to have a memento of them continually in your sight. Jim Crow is the representative of that injured race, and as such is the idol of your populace! See how they all sing his praises! — how they imitate his peculiarities! — how they repeat his name in their moments of leisure and relaxation! They even carve images of him to adorn their hearths, that his cause and his sufferings may never be forgotten ! Oh, philanthropic England! — oh, vanguard of civilization!"
Such are a few of the peculiarities of the London multitude, when no riot, no execution, no murder, no balloon, disturbs the even current of their thoughts. These are the whimseys of the mass - the harmless follies by which they unconsciously endeavour to lighten the load of care which presses upon their existence. The wise man, even though he smile at them, will not altogether withhold his sympathy, and will say, "Let them enjoy their slang phrases and their choruses if they will; and if they cannot be happy, at least let them be merry." To the Englishman, as well as to the Frenchman of whom Beranger sings, there may be some comfort in so small a thing as a song, and we may, own with him that
"Au peuple attriste Ce qui rendra la gaite, C'est la GAUDRIOLE! O gue! C'est la GAUDRIOLE!"
THE O.P. MANIA.
And these things bred a great combustion in the town. Wagstaffe's "Apparition of Mother Haggis."
The acrimonious warfare carried on for a length of time by the playgoers of London against the proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre, is one of the most singular instances upon record of the small folly which will sometimes pervade a multitude of intelligent men. Carried on at first from mere obstinacy by a few, and afterwards for mingled obstinacy and frolic by a greater number, it increased at last to such a height, that the sober dwellers in the provinces held up their hands in astonishment, and wondered that the people of London should be such fools. As much firmness and perseverance displayed in a better cause, might have achieved important triumphs; and we cannot but feel regret, in recording this matter, that so much good and wholesome energy should have been thrown away on so unworthy an object. But we will begin with the beginning, and trace the O. P. mania from its source.
On the night of the 20th of September, 1808, the old theatre of Covent-Garden was totally destroyed by fire. Preparations were immediately made for the erection of a more splendid edifice, and the managers, Harris and the celebrated John Philip Kemble, announced that the new theatre should be without a rival in Europe. In less than three months, the rubbish of the old building was cleared away, and the foundation-stone of the new one laid with all due ceremony by the Duke of Sussex. With so much celerity were the works carried on that, in nine months more, the edifice was completed, both without and within. The opening night was announced for the 18th of September 1809, within two days of a twelvemonth since the destruction of the original building.
But the undertaking had proved more expensive than the Committee anticipated. To render the pit entrance more commodious, it had been deemed advisable to remove a low public-house that stood in the way. This turned out a matter of no little difficulty, for the proprietor was a man well skilled in driving a hard bargain. The more eager the Committee showed themselves to come to terms with him for his miserable pot-house, the more grasping he became in his demands for compensation. They were ultimately obliged to pay him an exorbitant sum. Added to this, the interior decorations were on the most costly scale; and Mrs. Siddons, and other members of the Kemble family, together with the celebrated Italian singer, Madame Catalani, had been engaged at very high salaries. As the night of opening drew near, the Committee found that they had gone a little beyond their means; and they issued a notice, stating that, in consequence of the great expense they had been at in building the theatre, and the large salaries they had agreed to pay, to secure the services of the most eminent actors, they were under the necessity of fixing the prices of admission at seven shillings to the boxes and four shillings to the pit, instead of six shillings and three and sixpence, as heretofore.
This announcement created the greatest dissatisfaction. The boxes might have borne the oppression, but the dignity of the pit was wounded. A war-cry was raised immediately. For some weeks previous to the opening, a continual clatter was kept up in clubs and coffee-rooms, against what was considered a most unconstitutional aggression on the rights of play-going man. The newspapers assiduously kept up the excitement, and represented, day after day, to the managers the impolicy of the proposed advance. The bitter politics of the time were disregarded, and Kemble and Covent-Garden became as great sources of interest as Napoleon and France. Public attention was the more fixed upon the proceedings at Covent-Garden, since it was the only patent theatre then in existence, Drury-Lane theatre having also been destroyed by fire in the month of February previous. But great as was the indignation of the lovers of the drama at that time, no one could have anticipated the extraordinary lengths to which opposition would be carried.
First Night, September 20th. — The performances announced were the tragedy of "Macbeth" and the afterpiece of "The Quaker." The house was excessively crowded (the pit especially) with persons who had gone for no other purpose than to make a disturbance. They soon discovered another grievance to add to the list. The whole of the lower, and three-fourths of the upper tier of boxes, were let out for the season; so that those who had paid at the door for a seat in the boxes, were obliged to mount to a level with the gallery. Here they were stowed into boxes which, from their size and shape, received the contemptuous, and not inappropriate designation of pigeon-holes. This was considered in the light of a new aggression upon established rights; and long before the curtain drew up, the managers might have heard in their green-room the indignant shouts of "Down with the pigeon-holes!" — "Old prices for ever!" Amid this din the curtain rose, and Mr. Kemble stood forward to deliver a poetical address in honour of the occasion. The riot now began in earnest; not a word of the address was audible, from the stamping and groaning of the people in the pit. This continued, almost without intermission, through the five acts of the tragedy. Now and then, the sublime acting of Mrs. Siddons, as "the awful woman," hushed the noisy multitude into silence, in spite of themselves: but it was only for a moment; the recollection of their fancied wrongs made them ashamed of their admiration, and they shouted and hooted again more vigorously than before. The comedy of Munden in the afterpiece met with no better reception; not a word was listened to, and the curtain fell amid still increasing uproar and shouts of "Old prices!" Some magistrates, who happened to be present, zealously came to the rescue, and appeared on the stage with copies of the Riot Act. This ill-judged proceeding made the matter worse. The men of the pit were exasperated by the indignity, and strained their lungs to express how deeply they felt it. Thus remained the war till long after midnight, when the belligerents withdrew from sheer exhaustion.
Second Night. — The crowd was not so great; all those who had gone on the previous evening to listen to the performances, now stayed away, and the rioters had it nearly all to themselves. With the latter, "the play was not the thing," and Macheath and Polly sang in "The Beggar's Opera" in vain. The actors and the public appeared to have changed sides — the audience acted, and the actors listened. A new feature of this night's proceedings was the introduction of placards. Several were displayed from the pit and boxes, inscribed in large letters with the words, "Old prices." With a view of striking terror, the constables who had been plentifully introduced into the house, attacked the placard-bearers, and succeeded, after several severe battles, in dragging off a few of them to the neighbouring watch-house, in Bow Street. Confusion now became worse and worse confounded. The pitites screamed themselves hoarse; while, to increase the uproar, some mischievous frequenters of the upper regions squeaked through dozens of cat-calls, till the combined noise was enough to blister every tympanum in the house.
Third Night.—The appearance of several gentlemen in the morning at the bar of the Bow Street police office, to answer for their riotous conduct, had been indignantly commented upon during the day. All augured ill for the quiet of the night. The performances announced were "Richard the Third" and "The Poor Soldier," but the popularity of the tragedy could not obtain it a hearing. The pitites seemed to be drawn into closer union by the attacks made upon them, and to act more in concert than on the previous nights. The placards were, also, more numerous; not only the pit, but the boxes and galleries exhibited them. Among the most conspicuous, was one inscribed, "John Bull against John Kemble. — Who'll win?" Another bore "King George for ever! but no King Kemble." A third was levelled against Madame Catalani, whose large salary was supposed to be one of the causes of the increased prices, and was inscribed "No foreigners to tax us — we're taxed enough already." This last was a double-barrelled one, expressing both dramatic and political discontent, and was received with loud cheers by the pitites.
The tragedy and afterpiece were concluded full two hours before their regular time; and the cries for Mr. Kemble became so loud, that the manager thought proper to obey the summons. Amid all these scenes of uproar he preserved his equanimity, and was never once betrayed into any expression of petulance or anger. With some difficulty he obtained a hearing. He entered into a detail of the affairs of the theatre, assuring the audience at the same time of the solicitude of the proprietors to accommodate themselves to the public wish. This was received with some applause, as it was thought at first to manifest a willingness to come back to the old prices, and the pit eagerly waited for the next sentence, that was to confirm their hopes. That sentence was never uttered, for Mr. Kemble, folding his arms majestically, added, in his deep tragic voice, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I wait here to know what you want!" Immediately the uproar was renewed, and became so tremendous and so deafening, that the manager, seeing the uselessness of further parley, made his bow and retired.
A gentleman then rose in the boxes and requested a hearing. He obtained it without difficulty. He began by inveighing in severe terms against the pretended ignorance of Mr. Kemble, in asking them so offensively what they wanted, and concluded by exhorting the people never to cease their opposition until they brought down the prices to their old level. The speaker, whose name was understood to be Leigh, then requested a cheer for the actors, to show that no disrespect was intended them. The cheer was given immediately.
A barrister of the name of Smythe then rose to crave another hearing for Mr. Kemble. The manager stood forth again, calm, unmoved, and severe. "Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "I wait here to know your wishes." Mr. Leigh, who took upon himself, "for that night only," the character of popular leader, said, the only reply he could give was one in three words, "the old prices." Hereat the shouts of applause again rose, till the building rang. Still serene amid the storm, the manager endeavoured to enter into explanations. The men of the pit would hear nothing of the sort. They wanted entire and absolute acquiescence. Less would not satisfy them; and, as Mr. Kemble only wished to explain, they would not hear a word. He finally withdrew amid a noise to which Babel must have been comparatively silent.
Fourth night. — The rioters were more obstinate than ever. The noises were increased by the addition of whistles, bugle-horns, and watchmen's rattles, sniffling, snorting, and clattering from all parts of the house. Human lungs were taxed to the uttermost, and the stamping on the floor raised such a dust as to render all objects but dimly visible. In placards, too, there was greater variety. The loose wits of the town had all day been straining their ingenuity to invent new ones. Among them were, "Come forth, O Kemble! come forth and tremble!" "Foolish John Kemble, we'll make you tremble!" and "No cats! no Catalani! English actors for ever!"
Those who wish to oppose a mob successfully, should never lose their temper. It is a proof of weakness which masses of people at once perceive, and never fail to take advantage of. Thus, when the managers unwisely resolved to fight the mob with their own weapons, it only increased the opposition it was intended to allay. A dozen pugilists, commanded by a notorious boxer of the day, were introduced into the pit, to use the argumentum ad hominem to the rioters. Continual scuffles ensued: but the invincible resolution of the playgoers would not allow them to quail; it rather aroused them to renewed opposition, and a determination never to submit or yield. It also strengthened their cause, by affording them further ground of complaint against the managers.
The performances announced on the bills were the opera of "Love in a Village," and "Who wins?" but the bills had it all to themselves, for neither actors nor public were much burthened with them. The latter, indeed, afforded some sport. The title was too apt to the occasion to escape notice, and shouts of "Who wins? who wins?" displaced for a time the accustomed cry of old prices.
After the fall of the curtain, Mr. Leigh, with another gentleman, again spoke, complaining bitterly of the introduction of the prize-fighters, and exhorting the public never to give in. Mr. Kemble was again called forward; but when he came, the full tide of discord ran so strongly against him that, being totally unable to stem it, he withdrew. Each man seemed to shout as if he had been a Stentor; and when his lungs were wearied, took to his feet and stamped, till all the black coats in his vicinity became grey with dust. At last the audience were tired out, and the theatre was closed before eleven o'clock.
Fifth night. — The play was Coleman's amusing comedy of" John Bull." There was no diminution of the uproar. Every note on the diapason of discord was run through. The prize-fighters, or hitites as they were called, mustered in considerable numbers, and the battles between them and the pitites were fierce and many. It was now, for the first time, that the letters O.P. came into general use as an abbreviation of the accustomed watchword of old prices. Several placards were thus inscribed; and, as brevity is so desirable in shouting, the mob adopted the emendation. As usual, the manager was called for. After some delay he came forward, and was listened to with considerable patience. He repeated, in respectful terms, the great loss that would be occasioned to the proprietors by a return to the old prices, and offered to submit a statement of their accounts to the eminent lawyers, Sir Vicary Gibbs and Sir Thomas Plumer; the eminent merchants, Sir Francis Baring and Mr. Angerstein; and Mr. Whitmore, the Governor of the Bank of England. By their decision as to the possibility of carrying on the theatre at the old prices, he would consent to be governed, and he hoped the public would do the same. This reasonable proposition was scouted immediately. Not even the high and reputable names he had mentioned were thought to afford any guarantee for impartiality. The pitites were too wrong-headed to abate one iota of their pretensions; and they had been too much insulted by the prize-fighters in the manager's pay, to show any consideration for him, or agree to any terms he might propose. They wanted full acquiescence, and nothing less. Thus the conference broke off, and the manager retired amid a storm of hisses.
An Irish gentleman, named O'Reilly, then stood up in one of the boxes. With true Irish gallantry, he came to the rescue of an ill-used lady. He said he was disgusted at the attacks made upon Madame Catalani, the finest singer in the world, and a lady inestimable in private life. It was unjust, unmanly, and un-English to make the innocent suffer for the guilty; and he hoped this blot would be no longer allowed to stain a fair cause. As to the quarrel with the manager, he recommended them to persevere. They were not only wronged by his increased prices, but insulted by his boxers, and he hoped, that before they had done with him, they would teach him a lesson he would not soon forget. The gallant Hibernian soon became a favourite, and sat down amid loud cheers.
Sixth night. - No signs of a cessation of hostilities on the one side, or of a return to the old prices on the other. The playgoers seemed to grow more united as the managers grew more obstinate. The actors had by far the best time of it; for they were spared nearly all the labour of their parts, and merely strutted on the stage to see how matters went on, and then strutted off again. Notwithstanding the remonstrance of Mr. O'Reilly on the previous night, numerous placards reflecting upon Madame Catalani were exhibited. One was inscribed with the following doggrel :-
"Seventeen thousand a-year goes pat, To Kemble, his sister, and Madame Cat."
On another was displayed, in large letters, "No compromise, old prices, and native talent!" Some of these were stuck against the front of the boxes, and others were hoisted from the pit on long poles. The following specimens will suffice to show the spirit of them; wit they had none, or humour either, although when they were successively exhibited, they elicited roars of laughter:—
"John Kemble alone is the cause of this riot; When he lowers his prices, John Bull will be quiet."
"John Kemble be damn'd, We will not be cramm'd."
"Squire Kemble Begins to tremble."
The curtain fell as early as nine o'clock, when there being loud calls for Mr. Kemble, he stood forward. He announced that Madame Catalani, against whom so unjustifiable a prejudice had been excited, had thrown up her engagement rather than stand in the way of any accommodation of existing differences. This announcement was received with great applause. Mr. Kemble then went on to vindicate himself and co-proprietors from the charge of despising public opinion. No assertion, he assured them, could be more unjust. They were sincerely anxious to bring these unhappy differences to a close, and he thought he had acted in the most fair and reasonable manner in offering to submit the accounts to an impartial committee, whose decision, and the grounds for it, should be fully promulgated. This speech was received with cheering, but interrupted at the close by some individuals, who objected to any committee of the manager's nomination. This led to a renewal of the uproar, and it was some time before silence could be obtained. When, at last, he was able to make himself heard, he gave notice, that until the decision of the committee had been drawn up, the theatre should remain closed. Immediately every person in the pit stood up, and a long shout of triumph resounded through the house, which was heard at the extremity of Bow Street. As if this result had been anticipated, a placard was at the same moment hoisted, inscribed, "Here lies the body of NEW PRICE, an ugly brat and base born, who expired on the 23rd of September 1809, aged six days. — Requiescat in pace!"
Mr. Kemble then retired, and the pitites flung up their hats in the air, or sprang over the benches, shouting and hallooing in the exuberance of their joy; and thus ended the first act of this popular farce.
The committee ultimately chosen differed from that first named, Alderman Sir Charles Price, Bart. and Mr. Silvester, the Recorder of London, being substituted for Sir Francis Baring and Sir Vicary Gibbs. In a few days they had examined the multitudinous documents of the theatre, and agreed to a report which was published in all the newspapers, and otherwise distributed. They stated the average profits of the six preceding years at 6 and 3/8 per cent, being only 1 and 3/8 per cent. beyond the legal interest of money, to recompense the proprietors for all their care and enterprise. Under the new prices they would receive 3 and 1/2 per cent. profit; but if they returned to the old prices, they would suffer a loss of fifteen shillings per cent. upon their capital. Under these circumstances, they could do no other than recommend the proprietors to continue the new prices.
This report gave no satisfaction. It certainly convinced the reasonable, but they, unfortunately, were in a minority of one to ten. The managers, disregarding the outcry that it excited, advertised the recommencement of the performances for Wednesday the 4th of October following. They endeavoured to pack the house with their friends, but the sturdy O.P. men were on the alert, and congregated in the pit in great numbers. The play was "The Beggar's Opera," but, as on former occasions, it was wholly inaudible. The noises were systematically arranged, and the actors, seeing how useless it was to struggle against the popular feeling, hurried over their parts as quickly as they could, and the curtain fell shortly after nine o'clock. Once more the manager essayed the difficult task of convincing madness by appealing to reason. As soon as the din of the rattles and post-horns would permit him to speak, he said, he would throw himself on the fairness of the most enlightened metropolis in the world. He was sure, however strongly they might feel upon the subject, they would not be accessory to the ruin of the theatre, by insisting upon a return to the former prices. Notwithstanding the little sop he had thrown out to feed the vanity of this roaring Cerberus, the only answer he received was a renewal of the noise, intermingled with shouts of "Hoax! hoax! imposition!" Mr. O'Reilly, the gallant friend of Madame Catalani, afterwards addressed the pit, and said no reliance could be placed on the report of the committee. The profits of the theatre were evidently great: they had saved the heavy salary of Madame Catalani; and by shutting out the public from all the boxes but the pigeon-holes, they made large sums. The first and second tiers were let at high rents to notorious courtesans, several of whom he then saw in the house; and it was clear that the managers preferred a large revenue from this impure source to the reasonable profits they would receive from respectable people. Loud cheers greeted this speech; every eye was turned towards the boxes, and the few ladies in them immediately withdrew. At the same moment, some inveterate pitite hoisted a large placard, on which was inscribed,
"We lads of the pit Will never submit."
Several others were introduced. One of them was a caricature likeness of Mr. Kemble, asking, "What do you want?" with a pitite replying, "The old prices, and no pigeon-holes!" Others merely bore the drawing of a large key, in allusion to a notorious house in the neighbourhood, the denizens of which were said to be great frequenters of the private boxes. These appeared to give the managers more annoyance than all the rest, and the prize-fighters made vigorous attacks upon the holders of them. Several persons were, on this night, and indeed nearly every night, taken into custody, and locked up in the watchhouse. On their appearance the following morning, they were generally held to bail in considerable sums to keep the peace. This proceeding greatly augmented the animosity of the pit.
It would be useless to detail the scenes of confusion which followed night after night. For about three weeks the war continued with unabated fury. Its characteristics were nearly always the same. Invention was racked to discover new noises, and it was thought a happy idea when one fellow got into the gallery with a dustman's bell, and rang it furiously. Dogs were also brought into the boxes, to add their sweet voices to the general uproar. The animals seemed to join in it con amore, and one night a large mastiff growled and barked so loudly, as to draw down upon his exertions three cheers from the gratified pitites.
So strong did the popular enthusiasm run in favour of the row, that well-dressed ladies appeared in the boxes with the letters O. P. on their bonnets. O. P. hats for the gentlemen were still more common, and some were so zealous in the cause, as to sport waistcoats with an O embroidered upon one flap and a P on the other. O.P. toothpicks were also in fashion; and gentlemen and ladies carried O.P. handkerchiefs, which they waved triumphantly whenever the row was unusually deafening. The latter suggested the idea of O. P. flags, which were occasionally unfurled from the gallery to the length of a dozen feet. Sometimes the first part of the night's performances were listened to with comparative patience, a majority of the manager's friends being in possession of the house. But as soon as the half-price commenced, the row began again in all its pristine glory. At the fall of the curtain it soon became customary to sing "God save the King," the whole of the O.P.'s joining in loyal chorus. Sometimes this was followed by "Rule Britannia;" and, on two or three occasions, by a parody of the national anthem, which excited great laughter. A verse may not be uninteresting as a specimen.
"O Johnny Bull, be true, Confound the prices new, And make them fall! Curse Kemble's politics, Frustrate his knavish tricks, On thee our hopes we fix, T' upset them all !"
This done, they scrambled over the benches, got up sham fights in the pit, or danced the famous O.P. dance. The latter may as well be described here: half a dozen, or a dozen fellows formed in a ring, and stamped alternately with the right and left foot, calling out at regular intervals, O. P. - O. P. with a drawling and monotonous sound. This uniformly lasted till the lights were put out, when the rioters withdrew, generally in gangs of ten or twenty, to defend themselves from sudden attacks on the part of the constables.
An idea seemed about this time to break in upon them, that notwithstanding the annoyance they caused the manager, they were aiding to fill his coffers. This was hinted at in some of the newspapers, and the consequence was, that many stayed away to punish him, if possible, under the silent system. But this did not last long. The love of mischief was as great an incentive to many of them as enmity to the new prices. Accidental circumstances also contributed to disturb the temporary calm. At the Westminster quarter-sessions, on the 27th of October, bills of indictment were preferred against forty-one persons for creating a disturbance and interrupting the performances of the theatre. The grand jury ignored twenty-seven of the bills, left two undecided, and found true bills against twelve. The latter exercised their right of traverse till the ensuing sessions. The preferment of these bills had the effect of re-awakening the subsiding excitement. Another circumstance about the same time gave a still greater impetus to it, and furnished the rioters with a chief, round whom they were eager to rally. Mr. Clifford, a barrister, appeared in the pit on the night of the 31st of October, with the letters O. P. on his hat. Being a man of some note, he was pounced upon by the constables, and led off to Bow Street police office, where Brandon, the box-keeper, charged him with riotous and disorderly conduct. This was exactly what Clifford wanted. He told the presiding magistrate, a Mr. Read, that he had purposely displayed the letters on his hat, in order that the question of right might be determined before a competent tribunal. He denied that he had committed any offence, and seemed to manifest so intimate an acquaintance with the law upon the subject, that the magistrate, convinced by his reasoning, ordered his immediate dismissal, and stated that he had been taken into custody without the slightest grounds. The result was made known in the theatre a few minutes afterwards, where Mr. Clifford, on his appearance victorious, was received with reiterated huzzas. On his leaving the house, he was greeted by a mob of five or six hundred persons, who had congregated outside to do him honour as he passed. From that night the riots may be said to have recommenced, and "Clifford and O. P." became the rallying cry of the party. The officious box-keeper became at the same time the object of the popular dislike, and the contempt with which the genius and fine qualities of Mr. Kemble would not permit them to regard him, was fastened upon his underling. So much ill-feeling was directed towards the latter, that at this time a return to the old prices, unaccompanied by his dismissal, would not have made the manager's peace with the pitites.
In the course of the few succeeding weeks, during which the riots continued with undiminished fury, O. P. medals were struck, and worn in great numbers in the theatre. A few of the ultra-zealous even wore them in the streets. A new fashion also came into favour for hats, waistcoats, and handkerchiefs, on which the mark, instead of the separate letters O and P, was a large O, with a small P in the middle of it: thus,
xxxxxxxxx x x x xxx x x x x x x xxx x x x x x x x x x xxxxxxxxx
The managers, seeing that Mr. Clifford was so identified with the rioters, determined to make him responsible. An action was accordingly brought against him and other defendants in the Court of King's Bench. On the 20th of November, the Attorney-general moved, before Lord Ellenborough, for a rule to show cause why a criminal information should not be filed against Clifford for unlawfully conspiring with certain others to intimidate the proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre, and force them, to their loss and detriment, to lower their prices of admission. The rule was granted, and an early day fixed for the trial. In the mean time, these proceedings kept up the acerbity of the O. P.s, and every night at the fall of the curtain, three groans were given for John Kemble and three cheers for John Bull.
It was during this year that the national Jubilee was celebrated, in honour of tile fiftieth year of the reign of George III. When the riots had reached their fiftieth night, the O. P.s also determined to have a jubilee. All their previous efforts in the way of roaring, great as they were, were this night outdone, and would have continued long after "the wee short hour," had not the managers wisely put the extinguisher upon them and the lights about eleven o'clock.
Pending the criminal prosecution against himself, Mr. Clifford brought an action for false imprisonment against Brandon. The cause was fixed for trial in the Court of Common Pleas, on the 5th of December, before Lord Chief-Justice Mansfield. From an early hour in the morning all the avenues leading to the court were thronged with an eager multitude; all London was in anxiety for the resuit. So dense was the crowd, that counsel found the greatest difficulty in making their way into court. Mr. Sergeant Best was retained on the part of the plaintiff, and Mr. Sergeant Shepherd for the defence. The defendant put two pleas upon the record; first, that he was not guilty, and secondly, that he was justified. Sergeant Best, in stating the plaintiff's case, blamed the managers for all the disturbances that had taken place, and contended that his client, in affixing the letters O. P. to his hat, was not guilty of any offence. Even if he had joined in the noises, which he had not, his so doing would not subject him to the penalties for rioting. Several witnesses were then called to prove the capture of Mr. Clifford, the hearing of the case before the magistrate at Bow Street, and his ultimate dismissal. Sergeant Shepherd was heard at great length on the other side, and contended that his client was perfectly justified in taking into custody a man who was inciting others to commit a breach of the peace.
The Lord Chief-Justice summed up, with an evident bias in favour of the defendant. He said an undue apprehension of the rights of an audience had got abroad. Even supposing the object of the rioters to be fair and legal, they were not authorized to carry it by unfair means. In order to constitute a riot, it was not necessary that personal violence should be committed, and it seemed to him that the defendant had not acted in an improper manner in giving into custody a person who, by the display of a symbol, was encouraging others to commit a riot.
The jury retired to consider their verdict. The crowd without and within the court awaited the result in feverish suspense. Half an hour elapsed, when the jury returned with a verdict for the plaintiff — Damages, five pounds. The satisfaction of the spectators was evident upon their countenances, that of the judge expressed the contrary feeling. Turning to the foreman of the jury, his Lordship asked upon which of the two points referred to them, namely, the broad question, whether a riot had been committed, and, if committed, whether the plaintiff had participated in it, they had found their verdict?
The foreman stated, that they were all of opinion generally that the plaintiff had been illegally arrested. This vague answer did not satisfy his Lordship, and he repeated his question. He could not, however, obtain a more satisfactory reply. Evidently vexed at what he deemed the obtuseness or partiality of the jury, he turned to the bar, and said, that a spirit of a mischievous and destructive nature was abroad, which, if not repressed, threatened awful consequences. The country would be lost, he said, and the government overturned, if such a spirit were encouraged; it was impossible it could end in good. Time, the destroyer and fulfiller of predictions, has proved that his Lordship was a false prophet. The harmless O. P. war has been productive of no such dire results.
It was to be expected that after this triumph, the war in the pit would rage with redoubled acrimony. A riot beginning at half-price would not satisfy the excited feelings of the O. P.s on the night of such a victory. Long before the curtain drew up, the house was filled with them, and several placards were exhibited, which the constables and friends of the managers strove, as usual, to tear into shreds. One of them, which met this fate, was inscribed, "Success to O.P.! A British jury for ever!" It was soon replaced by another of a similar purport. It is needless to detail the uproar that ensued; the jumping, the fighting, the roaring, and the howling. For nine nights more the same system was continued; but the end was at hand.
On the 14th a grand dinner was given at the Crown and Anchor tavern, to celebrate the victory of Mr. Clifford. "The reprobators of managerial insolence," as they called themselves, attended in considerable numbers; and Mr. Clifford was voted to the chair. The cloth had been removed, and a few speeches made, when the company were surprised by a message that their arch-enemy himself solicited the honour of an audience. It was some time ere they could believe that Mr. Kemble had ventured to such a place. After some parley the manager was admitted, and a conference was held. A treaty was ultimately signed and sealed, which put an end to the long-contested wars of O.P., and restored peace to the drama.
All this time the disturbance proceeded at the theatre with its usual spirit. It was now the sixty-sixth night of its continuance, and the rioters were still untired — still determined to resist to the last. In the midst of it a gentleman arrived from the Crown and Anchor, and announced to the pit that Mr. Kemble had attended the dinner, and had yielded at last to the demand of the public. He stated, that it had been agreed upon between him and the Committee for defending the persons under prosecution, that the boxes should remain at the advanced price; that the pit should be reduced to three shillings and sixpence; that the private boxes should be done away with; and that all prosecutions, on both sides, should be immediately stayed. This announcement was received with deafening cheers. As soon as the first burst of enthusiasm was over, the O. P.s became anxious for a confirmation of the intelligence, and commenced a loud call for Mr. Kemble. He had not then returned from the Crown and Anchor; but of this the pitites were not aware, and for nearly half an hour they kept up a most excruciating din. At length the great actor made his appearance, in his walking dress, with his cane in hand, as he had left the tavern. It was a long time before he could obtain silence. He. apologized in the most respectful terms for appearing before them in such unbecoming costume, which was caused solely by his ignorance that he should have to appear before them that night. After announcing, as well as occasional interruptions would allow, the terms that had been agreed upon, he added, "In order that no trace or recollection of the past differences, which had unhappily prevailed so long, should remain, he was instructed by the proprietors to say, that they most sincerely lamented the course that had been pursued, and engaged that, on their parts, all legal proceedings should forthwith be put a stop to." The cheering which greeted this speech was interrupted at the close by loud cries from the pit of "Dismiss Brandon," while one or two exclaimed, "We want old prices generally, — six shillings for the boxes." After an ineffectual attempt to address them again upon this point, Mr. Kemble made respectful and repeated obeisances, and withdrew. The noises still continued, until Munden stood forward, leading by the hand the humbled box-keeper, contrition in his looks, and in his hands a written apology, which he endeavoured to read. The uproar was increased threefold by his presence, and, amid cries of "We won't hear him!" "Where's his master?" he was obliged to retire. Mr. Harris, the son of Kemble's co-manager, afterwards endeavoured to propitiate the audience in his favour; but it was of no avail; nothing less than his dismissal would satisfy the offended majesty of the pit. Amid this uproar the curtain finally fell, and the O. P. dance was danced for the last time within the walls of Covent Garden.
On the following night it was announced that Brandon had resigned his situation. This turned the tide of popular ill-will. The performances were "The Wheel of Fortune," and an afterpiece. The house was crowded to excess; a desire to be pleased was manifest on every countenance, and when Mr. Kemble, who took his favourite character of Penruddock, appeared upon the stage, he was greeted with the most vehement applause. The noises ceased entirely, and the symbols of opposition disappeared. The audience, hushed into attention, gave vent to no sounds but those of admiration for the genius of the actor. When, in the course of his part, he repeated the words, "So! I am in London again !" the aptness of the expression to the circumstances of the night, was felt by all present, and acknowledged by a round of boisterous and thrice repeated cheering. It was a triumphant scene for Mr. Kemble after his long annoyances. He had achieved a double victory. He had, not only as a manager, soothed the obstinate opposition of the play-goers, but as an actor he had forced from one of the largest audiences he had ever beheld, approbation more cordial and unanimous than he had ever enjoyed before. The popular favour not only turned towards him; it embraced everybody connected with the theatre, except the poor victim, Brandon. Most of the favourite actors were called before the curtain to make their bow, and receive the acclamations of the pit. At the close of the performances, a few individuals, implacable and stubborn, got up a feeble cry of "Old prices for the boxes;" but they were quickly silenced by the reiterated cheers of the majority, or by cries of "Turn them out!" A placard, the last of its race, was at the same time exhibited in the front of the pit, bearing, in large letters, the words "We are satisfied."
Thus ended the famous wars of O. P., which, for a period of nearly three months, had kept the metropolis in an uproar. And after all, what was the grand result? As if the whole proceeding had been a parody upon the more destructive, but scarcely more sensible wars recorded in history, it was commenced in injustice, carried on in bitterness of spirit, and ended, like the labour of the mountain, in a mouse. The abatement of sixpence in the price of admission to the pit, and the dismissal of an unfortunate servant, whose only fault was too much zeal in the service of his employers, — such were the grand victories of the O. P.'s.
THE THUGS, or PHANSIGARS.
Orribili favelle — parole di dolor.—DANTE.
Among the black deeds which Superstition has imposed as duties upon her wretched votaries, none are more horrible than the practices of the murderers, who, under the name of Thugs, or Phansigars, have so long been the scourge of India. For ages they have pursued their dark and dreadful calling, moulding assassination into a science, or extolling it as a virtue, worthy only to be practised by a race favoured of Heaven. Of late years this atrocious delusion has excited much attention, both in this country and in India; an attention which, it is to be hoped, will speedily lead to the uprooting of a doctrine so revolting and anti-human. Although the British Government has extended over Hindostan for so long a period, it does not appear that Europeans even suspected the existence of this mysterious sect until the commencement of the present century. In the year 1807, a gang of Thugs, laden with the plunder of murdered travellers, was accidentally discovered. The inquiries then set on foot revealed to the astonished Government a system of iniquity unparalleled in the history of man. Subsequent investigation extended the knowledge; and by throwing light upon the peculiar habits of the murderers, explained the reason why their crimes had remained so long undiscovered. In the following pages will be found an epitome of all the information which has reached Europe concerning them, derived principally from Dr. Sherwood's treatise upon the subject, published in 1816, and the still more valuable and more recent work of Mr. Sleeman, entitled the "Ramaseeana; or, Vocabulary of the peculiar Language of the Thugs."
The followers of this sect are called Thugs, or T'hugs, and their profession Thuggee. In the south of India they are called Phansigars: the former word signifying "a deceiver;" and the latter, "a strangler." They are both singularly appropriate. The profession of Thuggee is hereditary, and embraces, it is supposed, in every part of India, a body of at least ten thousand individuals, trained to murder from their childhood; carrying it on in secret and in silence, yet glorying in it, and holding the practice of it higher than any earthly honour. During the winter months, they usually follow some reputable calling, to elude suspicion; and in the summer, they set out in gangs over all the roads of India, to plunder and destroy. These gangs generally contain from ten to forty Thugs, and sometimes as many as two hundred. Each strangler is provided with a noose, to despatch the unfortunate victim, as the Thugs make it a point never to cause death by any other means. When the gangs are very large, they divide into smaller bodies; and each taking a different route, they arrive at the same general place of rendezvous to divide the spoil. They sometimes travel in the disguise of respectable traders; sometimes as sepoys or native soldiers; and at others, as government officers. If they chance to fall in with an unprotected wayfarer, his fate is certain. One Thug approaches him from behind, and throws the end of a sash round his neck; the other end is seized by a second at the same instant, crossed behind the neck, and drawn tightly, while with their other hand the two Thugs thrust his head forward to expedite the strangulation: a third Thug seizes the traveller by the legs at the same moment, and he is thrown to the ground, a corpse before he reaches it.
But solitary travellers are not the prey they are anxious to seek. A wealthy caravan of forty or fifty individuals has not unfrequently been destroyed by them; not one soul being permitted to escape. Indeed, there is hardly an instance upon record of any one's escape from their hands, so surely are their measures taken, and so well do they calculate beforehand all the risks and difficulties of the undertaking. Each individual of the gang has his peculiar duty allotted to him. Upon-approaching a town, or serai, two or three, known as the Soothaes, or "inveiglers," are sent in advance to ascertain if any travellers are there; to learn, if possible, the amount of money or merchandize they carry with them, their hours of starting in the morning, or any other particulars that may be of use. If they can, they enter into conversation with them, pretend to be travelling to the same place, and propose, for mutual security, to travel with them. This intelligence is duly communicated to the remainder of the gang. The. place usually chosen for the murder is some lonely part of the road in the vicinity of a jungle, and the time, just before dusk. At given signals, understood only by themselves, the scouts of the party station themselves in the front, in the rear, and on each side, to guard against surprise. A strangler and assistant strangler, called Bhurtote and Shamshea, place themselves, the one on the right, and the other on the left of the victim, without exciting his suspicion. At another signal the noose is twisted, drawn tightly by a strong hand at each extremity, and the traveller, in a few seconds, hurried into eternity. Ten, twelve, twenty, and in some instances, sixty persons have been thus despatched at the same moment. Should any victim, by a rare chance, escape their hands, he falls into those of the scouts who are stationed within hearing, who run upon him and soon overpower him.
Their next care is to dispose of the bodies. So cautious are they to prevent detection, that they usually break all the joints to hasten decomposition. They then cut open the body to prevent it swelling in the grave and causing fissures in the soil above, by which means the jackals might be attracted to the spot, and thereby lead to discovery. When obliged to bury the body in a frequented district, they kindle a fire over the grave to obliterate the traces of the newly turned earth. Sometimes the grave-diggers of the party, whose office, like that of all the rest, is hereditary, are despatched to make the graves in the morning at some distant spot, by which it is known the travellers will pass. The stranglers, in the mean time, journey quietly with their victims, conversing with them in the most friendly manner. Towards nightfall they approach the spot selected for their murder; the signal is given, and they fall into the graves that have been ready for them since day-break. On one occasion, related by Captain Sleeman, a party of fifty-nine people, consisting of fifty-two men and seven women, were thus simultaneously strangled, and thrown into the graves prepared for them in the morning. Some of these travellers were on horseback and well armed, but the Thugs, who appear to have been upwards of two hundred in a gang, had provided against all risk of failure. The only one left alive of all that numerous party, was an infant four years old, who was afterwards initiated into all the mysteries of Thuggee.
If they cannot find a convenient opportunity for disposing of the bodies, they carry them for many miles, until they come to a spot secure from intrusion, and to a soil adapted to receive them. If fear of putrefaction admonishes them to use despatch, they set up a large screen or tent, as other travellers do, and bury the body within the enclosure, pretending, if inquiries are made, that their women are within. But this only happens when they fall in with a victim unexpectedly. In murders which they have planned previously, the finding of a place of sepulture is never left to hazard.
Travellers who have the misfortune to lodge in the same choultry or hostelry, as the Thugs, are often murdered during the night. It is either against their creed to destroy a sleeper, or they find a difficulty in placing the noose round the neck of a person in a recumbent position. When this is the case, the slumberer is suddenly aroused by the alarm of a snake or a scorpion. He starts to his feet, and finds the fatal sash around his neck. — He never escapes.
In addition to these Thugs who frequent the highways, there are others, who infest the rivers, and are called Pungoos. They do not differ in creed, but only in a few of their customs, from their brethren on shore. They go up and down the rivers in their own boats, pretending to be travellers of consequence, or pilgrims, proceeding to, or returning from Benares, Allahabad, or other sacred places. The boatmen, who are also Thugs, are not different in appearance from the ordinary boatmen on the river. The artifices used to entice victims on board are precisely similar to those employed by the highway Thugs. They send out their "inveiglers" to scrape acquaintance with travellers, and find out the direction in which they are journeying. They always pretend to be bound for the same place, and vaunt the superior accommodation of the boat by which they are going. The travellers fall into the snare, are led to the Thug captain, who very often, to allay suspicion, demurs to take them, but eventually agrees for a moderate sum. The boat strikes off into the middle of the stream; the victims are amused and kept in conversation for hours by their insidious foes, until three taps are given on the deck above. This is a signal from the Thugs on the look-out that the coast is clear. In an instant the fatal noose is ready, and the travellers are no more. The bodies are then thrown, warm and palpitating, into the river, from a hole in the side of the boat, contrived expressly for the purpose.
A river Thug, who was apprehended, turned approver, to save his own life, and gave the following evidence relative to the practices of his fraternity: — "We embarked at Rajmahul. The travellers sat on one side of the boat, and the Thugs on the other; while we three (himself and two "stranglers,") were placed in the stern, the Thugs on our left, and the travellers on our right. Some of the Thugs, dressed as boatmen, were above deck, and others walking along the bank of the river, and pulling the boat by the joon, or rope, and all, at the same time, on the look-out. We came up with a gentleman's pinnace and two baggage-boats, and were obliged to stop, and let them go on. The travellers seemed anxious; but were quieted by being told that the men at the rope were tired, and must take some refreshment. They pulled out something, and began to eat; and when the pinnace had got on a good way, they resumed their work, and our boat proceeded. It was now afternoon; and, when a signal was given above, that all was clear, the five Thugs who sat opposite the travellers sprang in upon them, and, with the aid of others, strangled them. Having done this, they broke their spinal bones, and then threw them out of a hole made at the side, into the river, and kept on their course; the boat being all this time pulled along by the men on the bank."
That such atrocities as these should have been carried on for nearly two centuries without exciting the attention of the British Government, seems incredible. But our wonder will be diminished when we reflect upon the extreme caution of the Thugs, and the ordinary dangers of travelling in India. The Thugs never murder a man near his own home, and they never dispose of their booty near the scene of the murder. They also pay, in common with other and less atrocious robbers, a portion of their gains to the Polygars, or native authorities of the districts in which they reside, to secure protection. The friends and relatives of the victims, perhaps a thousand miles off, never surmise their fate till a period has elapsed when all inquiry would be fruitless, or, at least, extremely difficult. They have no clue to the assassins, and very often impute to the wild beasts of the jungles the slaughter committed by that wilder beast, man.
There are several gradations through which every member of the fraternity must regularly pass before he arrives at the high office of a Bhurtote, or strangler. He is first employed as a scout — then as a sexton — then as a Shumseea, or holder of hands, and lastly as a Bhurtote. When a man who is not of Thug lineage, or who has not been brought up from his infancy among them, wishes to become a strangler, he solicits the oldest, and most pious and experienced Thug, to take him under his protection and make him his disciple; and under his guidance he is regularly initiated. When he has acquired sufficient experience in the lower ranks of the profession, he applies to his Gooroo, or preceptor, to give the finishing grace to his education, and make a strangler of him. An opportunity is found when a solitary traveller is to be murdered; and the tyro, with his preceptor, having seen that the proposed victim is asleep, and in safe keeping till their return, proceed to a neighbouring field and perform several religious ceremonies, accompanied by three or four of the oldest and steadiest members of the gang. The Gooroo first offers up a prayer to the goddess, saying, "Oh, Kalee! Kun-kalee! Bhud-kalee! Oh, Kalee! Maha-kalee! Calkutta Walee! if it seems fit to thee that the traveller now at our lodging should die by the hands of this thy slave, vouchsafe us thy good omen." They then sit down and watch for the good omen; and if they receive it within half an hour, conclude that their goddess is favourable to the claims of the new candidate for admission. If they have a bad omen, or no omen at all, some other Thug must put the traveller to death, and the aspirant must wait a more favourable opportunity, purifying himself in the mean time by prayer and humiliation for the favour of the goddess. If the good omen has been obtained, they return to their quarters; and the Gooroo takes a handkerchief and, turning his face to the west, ties a knot at one end of it, inserting a rupee, or other piece of silver. This knot is called the goor khat, or holy knot, and no man who has not been properly ordained is allowed to tie it. The aspirant receives it reverently in his right hand from his Gooroo, and stands over the sleeping victim, with a Shumseea, or holder of hands, at his side. The traveller is aroused, the handkerchief is passed around his neck, and, at a signal from the Gooroo, is drawn tight till the victim is strangled; the Shumseea holding his hands to prevent his making any resistance. The work being now completed, the Bhurtote (no longer an aspirant, but an admitted member) bows down reverently in the dust before his Gooroo, and touches his feet with both his hands, and afterwards performs the same respect to his relatives and friends who have assembled to witness the solemn ceremony. He then waits for another favourable omen, when he unties the knot and takes out the rupee, which he gives to his Gooroo, with any other silver which he may have about him. The Gooroo adds some of his own money, with which he purchases what they call goor, or consecrated sugar, when a solemn sacrifice is performed, to which all the gang are invited. The relationship between the Gooroo and his disciple is accounted the most holy that can be formed, and subsists to the latest period of life. A Thug may betray his father, but never his Gooroo.
Dark and forbidding as is the picture already drawn, it will become still darker and more repulsive, when we consider the motives which prompt these men to systematic murder. Horrible as their practices would be, if love of plunder alone incited them, it is infinitely more horrible to reflect that the idea of duty and religion is joined to the hope of gain, in making them the scourges of their fellows. If plunder were their sole object, there would be reason to hope, that when a member of the brotherhood grew rich, he would rest from his infernal toils; but the dismal superstition which he cherishes tells him never to desist. He was sent into the world to be a slayer of men, and he religiously works out his destiny. As religiously he educates his children to pursue the same career, instilling into their minds, at the earliest age, that Thuggee is the noblest profession a man can follow, and that the dark goddess they worship will always provide rich travellers for her zealous devotees.
The following is the wild and startling legend upon which the Thugs found the divine origin of their sect. They believe that, in the earliest ages of the world, a gigantic demon infested the earth, and devoured mankind as soon as they were created. He was of so tall a stature, that when he strode through the most unfathomable depths of the great sea, the waves, even in tempest, could not reach above his middle. His insatiable appetite for human flesh almost unpeopled the world, until Bhawanee, Kalee, or Davee, the goddess of the Thugs, determined to save mankind by the destruction of the monster. Nerving herself for the encounter, she armed herself with an immense sword; and, meeting with the demon, she ran him through the body. His blood flowed in torrents as he fell dead at her feet; but from every drop there sprang up another monster, as rapacious and as terrible as the first. Again the goddess upraised her massive sword, and hewed down the hellish brood by hundreds; but the more she slew, the more numerous they became. Every drop of their blood generated a demon; and, although the goddess endeavoured to lap up the blood ere it sprang into life, they increased upon her so rapidly, that the labour of killing became too great for endurance. The perspiration rolled down her arms in large drops, and she was compelled to think of some other mode of exterminating them. In this emergency, she created two men out of the perspiration of her body, to whom she confided the holy task of delivering the earth from the monsters. To each of the men she gave a handkerchief, and showed them how to kill without shedding blood. From her they learned to tie the fatal noose; and they became, under her tuition, such expert stranglers, that, in a very short space of time, the race of demons became extinct.
When there were no more to slay, the two men sought the great goddess, in order to return the handkerchiefs. The grateful Bhawanee desired that they would retain them, as memorials of their heroic deeds; and in order that they might never lose the dexterity that they had acquired in using them, she commanded that, from thenceforward, they should strangle men. These were the two first Thugs, and from them the whole race have descended. To the early Thugs the goddess was more direct in her favours, than she has been to their successors. At first, she undertook to bury the bodies of all the men they slew and plundered, upon the condition that they should never look back to see what she was doing. The command was religiously observed for many ages, and the Thugs relied with implicit faith upon the promise of Bhawanee; but as men became more corrupt, the ungovernable curiosity of a young Thug offended the goddess, and led to the withdrawal of a portion of her favour. This youth, burning with a desire to see how she made her graves, looked back, and beheld her in the act, not of burying, but of devouring, the body of a man just strangled. Half of the still palpitating remains was dangling over her lips. She was so highly displeased that she condemned the Thugs, from that time forward, to bury their victims themselves. Another account states that the goddess was merely tossing the body in the air; and that, being naked, her anger was aggravated by the gaze of mortal eyes upon her charms. Before taking a final leave of her devotees, she presented them with one of her teeth for a pickaxe, one of her ribs for a knife, and the hem of her garment for a noose. She has not since appeared to human eyes.
The original tooth having been lost in the lapse of ages, new pickaxes have been constructed, with great care and many ceremonies, by each considerable gang of Thugs, to be used in making the graves of strangled travellers. The pickaxe is looked upon with the utmost veneration by the tribe. A short account of the process of making it, and the rites performed, may be interesting, as showing still further their gloomy superstition. In the first place, it is necessary to fix upon a lucky day. The chief Thug then instructs a smith to forge the holy instrument: no other eye is permitted to see the operation. The smith must engage in no other occupation until it is completed, and the chief Thug never quits his side during the process. When the instrument is formed, it becomes necessary to consecrate it to the especial service of Bhawnee. Another lucky day is chosen for this ceremony, care being had in the mean time that the shadow of no earthly thing fall upon the pickaxe, as its efficacy would be for ever destroyed. A learned Thug then sits down; and turning his face to the west, receives the pickaxe in a brass dish. After muttering some incantation, he throws it into a pit already prepared for it, where it is washed in clear water. It is then taken out, and washed again three times; the first time in sugar and water, the second in sour milk, and the third in spirits. It is then dried, and marked from the head to the point with seven red spots. This is the first part of the ceremony: the second consists in its purification by fire. The pickaxe is again placed upon the brass dish, along with a cocoa-nut, some sugar, cloves, white sandal-wood, and other articles. A fire of the mango tree, mixed with dried cow-dung, is then kindled; and the officiating Thug, taking the pickaxe with both hands, passes it seven times through the flames.
It now remains to be ascertained whether the goddess is favourable to her followers. For this purpose, the cocoa-nut is taken from the dish and placed upon the ground. The officiating Thug, turning to the spectators, and holding the axe uplifted, asks, "Shall I strike?" Assent being given, he strikes the nut with the but-end of the axe, exclaiming, "All hail! mighty Davee! great mother of us all!" The spectators respond, "All hail! mighty Davee! and prosper thy children, the Thugs!"
If the nut is severed at the first blow, the goddess is favourable; if not, she is unpropitious: all their labour is thrown away, and the ceremony must be repeated upon some more fitting occasion. But if the sign be favourable, the axe is tied carefully in a white cloth and turned towards the west, all the spectators prostrating themselves before it. It is then buried in the earth, with its point turned in the direction the gang wishes to take on their approaching expedition. If the goddess desires to warn them that they will be unsuccessful, or that they have not chosen the right track, the Thugs believe that the point of the axe will veer round, and point to the better way. During an expedition, it is entrusted to the most prudent and exemplary Thug of the party: it is his care to hold it fast. If by any chance he should let it fall, consternation spreads through the gang: the goddess is thought to be offended; the enterprise is at once abandoned; and the Thugs return home in humiliation and sorrow, to sacrifice to their gloomy deity, and win back her estranged favour. So great is the reverence in which they hold the sacred axe, that a Thug will never break an oath that he has taken upon it. He fears that, should he perjure himself, his neck would be so twisted by the offended Bhawanee as to make his face turn to his back; and that, in the course of a few days, he would expire in the most excruciating agonies.
The Thugs are diligent observers of signs and omens. No expedition is ever undertaken before the auspices are solemnly taken. Upon this subject Captain Sleeman says, "Even the most sensible approvers, who have been with me for many years, as well Hindoos as Mussulmans, believe that their good or ill success depended upon the skill with which the omens were discovered and interpreted, and the strictness with which they were observed and obeyed. One of the old Sindouse stock told me, in presence of twelve others, from Hydrabad, Behar, the Dooah, Oude, Rajpootana, and Bundelcund, that, had they not attended to these omens, they never could have thrived as they did. In ordinary cases of murder, other men seldom escaped punishment, while they and their families had, for ten generations, thrived, although they had murdered hundreds of people. 'This,' said the Thug,' could never have been the case had we not attended to omens, and had not omens been intended for us. There were always signs around us to guide us to rich booty, and warn us of danger, had we been always wise enough to discern them and religious enough to attend to them.' Every Thug present concurred with him from his soul."
A Thug, of polished manners and great eloquence, being asked by a native gentleman, in the presence of Captain Sleeman, whether he never felt compunction in murdering innocent people, replied with a smile that he did not. "Does any man," said he, "feel compunction in following his trade? and are not all our trades assigned us by Providence?" He was then asked how many people he had killed with his own hands in the course of his life? "I have killed none," was the reply. "What! and have you not been describing a number of murders in which you were concerned?" "True; but do you suppose that I committed them? Is any man killed by man's killing? Is it not the hand of God that kills, and are we not the mere instruments in the hands of God?"
Upon another occasion, Sahib, an approver, being asked if he had never felt any pity or compunction at murdering old men or young children, or persons with whom he had sat and conversed, and who had told him, perchance, of their private affairs — their hopes and their fears, their wives and their little ones? replied unhesi- tatingly that he never did. From the time that the omens were favourable, the Thugs considered all the travellers they met as victims thrown into their hands by their divinity to be killed. The Thugs were the mere instruments in the hands of Bhawanee to destroy them. "If we did not kill them," said Sahib, "the goddess would never again be propitious to us, and we and our families would be involved in misery and want. If we see or hear a bad omen, it is the order of the goddess not to kill the travellers we are in pursuit of, and we dare not disobey."
As soon as an expedition has been planned, the goddess is consulted. On the day chosen for starting, which is never during the unlucky months of July, September, and December, nor on a Wednesday or Thursday; the chief Thug of the party fills a brass jug with water, which he carries in his right hand by his side. With his left, he holds upon his breast the sacred pickaxe, wrapped carefully in a white cloth, along with five knots of turmeric, two copper, and one silver coin. He then moves slowly on, followed by the whole of the gang, to some field or retired place, where halting, with his countenance turned in the direction they wish to pursue, he lifts up his eyes to heaven, saying, "Great goddess! universal mother! if this, our meditated expedition, be fitting in thy sight, vouchsafe to help us, and give us the signs of thy approbation." All the Thugs present solemnly repeat the prayer after their leader, and wait in silence for the omen. If within half an hour they see Pilhaoo, or good omen on the left, it signifies that the goddess has taken them by the left hand to lead them on; if they see the Thibaoo, or omen on the right, it signifies that she has taken them by the right hand also. The leader then places the brazen pitcher on the ground and sits down beside it, with his face turned in the same direction for seven hours, during which time his followers make all the necessary preparations for the journey. If, during this interval, no unfavourable signs are observed, the expedition advances slowly, until it arrives at the bank of the nearest stream, when they all sit down and eat of the goor, or consecrated sugar. Any evil omens that are perceived after this ceremony may be averted by sacrifices; but any evil omens before, would at once put an end to the expedition.