Story Of London

Patterers: The Second Edition

London has always been a noisy place. Amongst the cacophony of sound in the Victorian streets was the chanting of the “Patterers”, either moving or stationary. In his London Labour and the London Poor, Henry Mayhew devoted an entire chapter to an investigation of the artistry, lives and habits of these Londoners. In the next of our extracts he turns his attention to an already dead breed – the patterer who specialised in the “Second Editions”.

OF THE SELLERS OF SECOND EDITIONS.These “second editions” are, and almost universally, second or later editions of the newspapers, morning and evening, but three-fourths of the sale may be of the evening papers, and more especially of the Globe and Standard.I believe that there is not now in existence -unless it be in a workhouse and unknown to his fellows, or engaged in some other avocation and lost sight of by them -any one who sold “second editions” (the Courier evening paper being then in the greatest demand) at the time of the Duke of York’s Walcheren expedition, at the period of the battle of the Nile, during the continuance of the Peninsular war, or even at the battle of Waterloo. There were a few old men -some of whom had been soldiers or sailors, and others who have simulated it -surviving within these 5 or 6 years, and some later, who ” worked Waterloo, “but they were swept off,” I was told, by the cholera.I was assured by a gentlemen who had a perfect remembrance of the “second editions” (as they were generally called) sold in the streets, and who had often bought them upwards of forty years ago, that a sketch in the “Monthly Review,” in a notice of Scott’s “Lord of the Isles” (published in 1815), gave the best notion he had met with of what the second edition sale really was. At the commencement of the sixth canto of his poem, Sir Walter, somewhat too grandiloquently, in the judgment of his reviewer, asks -“O who, that shared them, ever shall forget
The emotions of the spirit-rousing time,
When breathless in the mart the couriers met,
Early and late, at evening and at prime?””Who,” in his turn asks the reviewer, “can avoid conjuring up the idea of men with broad sheets of foolscap, scored with ‘VICTORIES’ rolled round their hats, and horns blowing loud defiance in each other’s mouth, from the top to the bottom of Pall-mall or the Haymarket, when he reads such a passage? We actually hear the Park and Tower guns, and the clattering of ten thousand bells, as we read, and stop our ears from the close and sudden intrusion of some hot and horn-fisted patriot, blowing ourselves, as well as Bonaparte to the devil!”The horn carried by these “horn-fisted” men was a common tin tube, from two to three feet long, and hardly capable of being made to produce any sound beyond a sudden and discordant “trump, trump.” The men worked with papers round their hats, in a way not very dissimilar to that of the running patterers of to-day.The “editions ” cried by these men during the war-time often contained spurious intelligence, but for that the editors of the journals were responsible -or the stock-jobbers who had imposed upon them. Any one who has consulted a file of newspapers of the period to which I have referred, will remember how frequent, and how false, were the announcements, or the rumours, of the deaths of Bonaparte, his brothers, or his marshals, in battle or by assassination.As there was no man who was personally conversant with this traffic in what is emphatically enough called the “war-time,” I sought out an old street-patterer who had been acquainted with the older hands in the trade, whose experience stretched to the commencement of the present century, and from him I received the following account:”Oh, yes,” he began, “I’ve worked ‘seconds.’ We used to call the editions generally seconds, and cry them sometimes, as the latest editions, whatever it was. There was Jack Griffiths, sir, -now wasn’t he a hand at a second edition? I believe you. I do any kind of patter now myself, but I’ve done tidy on second editions, when seconds was to be had. Why, Jack Griffiths, sir -he’d been a sailor and was fond of talking about the sea -Jack Griffiths -you would have liked to have heard him -Jack told me that he once took 10s. 6d. -it was Hyde Park way -for a second edition of a paper when Queen Caroline’s trial was over.
Besides there was Tom Cole, called the Wooden Leg (he’d been a soldier I believe), and Whitechapel, and Old Brummagem, and Hell-fire Jack. Hell-fire Jack was said to be something to a man that was a trainer, and a great favourite of the old Duke of Queensberry, and was called Hell-fire Dick; but I can’t say how it was.
I began to work second editions, for the first time when George IV. died. They went off pretty well at 1s. a piece, and for three or four I got 2s. 6d. If it’s anything good I get 1s. still, but very seldom any more. I always show anybody that asks that the paper is just what I’ve cried it. There’s no regular cry; we cries what’s up: ‘Here’s the second edition of the Globe with the full perticlers of the death of his Majesty King George IV.’ We work much in the same way as the running patter.
Three of us shouts in the same spot. I was one of three who one night sold five quires, mostly Globe and Standard. It was at the Reform Bill time, and something about the Reform Bill. I never much heeded what the paper was about. I only wanted the patter, and soon got it. A mate, or any of us, looks out for anything good in the evening papers, to be ready. Why that night I speak of I was kept running backards and for’ards to the newspaper offices -and how they does keep you waiting at times! -mostly the Globe and Standard; we worked them all at the West End.
There’s twenty-seven papers to a quire, and we gave 4d. a piece for ’em and sold none, as well as I mind, for under 1s. I carried them mostly under my arm or in my hat, taking care they wasn’t spoiled. Belgrave-square way, and St. George’s, Hanover-square way, and Hyde Park way, are the best. The City’s no good. There’s only sixpences there. The coffee-shops has spoiled the City, as I’m afeard they will other parts.
Murders in second editions don’t sell now, and aren’t tried much, beyond a few, if there’s a late verdict. Curviseer (Courvoisier
) was tidy. The trial weren’t over ’til evening, and I sold six papers, and got 7s. for them, to gentlemen going away by the mail. I’ve heard that Greenacre was good in the same way, but I wasn’t in town at the time. The French Revolution -the last one -was certainly a fairish go. Lewis Fillup was good many ways. When he used to be shot at -if the news weren’t too early in the day -and when he got to England, and when he was said to have got back, or to have been taken. Why, of course he wern’t to compare with Rush in the regular patter, but he was very fair. I have nothing to say against him, and wish he was alive, and could do it all over again.
Lord Brougham’s death wern’t worth much to us. You remember the time, I dare say, sir, when they said he killed hisself in the papers, to see what folks would say on him. The resignation of a prime minister is mostly pretty good. Lord Melbourne was, and so was Sir Robert Peel. There’s always somebody to say, ‘Hurra! that’s right!’ and to buy a paper because he’s pleased.
I had a red paper in my hat when I worked the French Revolution. French news is generally liked in a fashionable drag. Irish news is no good, for people don’t seem to believe it. Smith O’Brien’s battle, though, did sell a little. It’s not possible to tell you exactly what I’ve made on seconds. How can I? One week I may have cleared £1 in them, and for six months before not a blessed brown. Perhaps -as near as I can recollect and calculate -I’ve cleared £3 (if that) each year, one with another, in second editions in my time, and perhaps twenty others has done the same.”Get the Second edition!Another man who also knew the old hands said to me: ” Lord bless us, how times is changed! you should have heard Jack Griffiths tell how he cried his gazettes: ‘He-ere’s the London Gazette Ex-terornary, containing the hof-ficial account of the bloody and decisive wictory of Sally-manker.’ Something that way. Patter wern’t required then; the things sold theirselves. Why, the other day I was talking to a young chap that conceits hisself to be a hout-and-houter in patter, and I mentions Jack’s crying Gazettes and getting 5s. apiece for many a one on ’em, and this young chap says, says he: ‘Gazettes! What did they cry Gazettes? -bankrupts, and all that?’ ‘Bankrupts be blowed!’ said I, ‘wictories!’ I heerd Waterloo cried when I was a little ‘un. The speeches on the opening of parliament, which the newspapers has ready, has no sale in the crowd to what they had. I only sold two papers at 6d. each this last go. I ventured on no more, or should have been a loser. If the Queen isn’t there, none’s sold. But we always has a speech ready, as close as can be got from what the morning papers says. One gent. said to me: ‘But that ain’t the real speech!’ ‘It’s a far better,’ says I, and so it is. Why now, sir, there’s some reading and spirit in this bit. The Queen says:-‘It is my determination by the assistance of divine providence to uphold and protect the Protestant Church of the British Empire, which has been enjoyed three hundred years without interuption, the Religion which our ancestors struggled to obtain. And as long as it shall please God to spare me, I will endeavour to maintain the rights and perogatives of our holy Protestant Church. And now my Lords, I leave you to your duties, to the helm of the state, to the harbour of peace, and happiness.’ “This man showed me the street speech, which was on a broad sheet set off with the royal arms. The topics and arrangement were the same as those in the speech delivered by her Majesty.On Monday morning last (Feb. 24), I asked the man who told me that prime ministers’ resignations were ” pretty good” for the street traffic, if he had been well remunerated by the sale of the evening papers of Saturday, with the account of Lord John Russell’s resignation.”It wern’t tried, sir,” he answered; “there was nothing new in the evenings, and we thought nobody seemed to care about it. The newspaper offices and their boarders (as he called the men going about with announcements on boards) didn’t make very much of it, so we got up a song instead; but it was no good, -not salt to a fresh herring -for there was some fresh herrings in. It was put strong, though. This was the last verse:
‘From the House to the Palace it has caused a bother,
Old women are tumbling one over another,
The Queen says it is with her, one thing or ‘tother,
They must not discharge Little John;
Her Majesty vows that she is not contented,
And many ere long will have cause to repent it,
Had she been in the house she would nobly resent it,
And fought like a brick for Lord John.'”Adopting the calculation of my first informant, and giving a profit of 150 per cent., we find £150 yearly expended in the streets, in second editions, or probably it might be more correct to say £200 in a year of great events, and £50 in a year when such events are few.Links to the other articles in the series.The London Street PatterersIntroduction
The Origins of Patterers
The Morals of Patterers
The Patterers’ Street Literature
Long Song-Sellers
The Running Patterer
The Death and Fire HuntersThe Second Edition
The Standing Patterers: I
Pattering Religious and Political Dialogues