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these sinister events are recounted by Mr. Skryme with a mysterious look, and a dismal shake of the head; and being taken with his drugs, and associated in the minds of his auditors with stuffed sea-monsters, bottled serpents, and his own visage, which is a titlepage of tribulation, they have spread great gloom through the minds of the people of Little Britain. They shake their heads whenever they go by Bow Church, and observe, that they never expected any good to come of taking down that steeple, which in old times told nothing but glad tidings, as the history of Whittington and his Cat bears witness.

The rival oracle of Little Britain is a substantial cheesemonger, who lives in a fragment of one of the old family mansions, and is as magnificenzly lodged as a round-bellied mite in the midst of one of his own Cheshires. Indeed he is a man of no little standing and importance; and his renown extends through Huggin Lane, and Lad Lane, and even unto Aldermanbury. His opinion is very much taken in affairs of state, having read the Sunday papers for the last half century, together with the Gentleman's Magazine, Rapin’s History of England, and the Naval Chronicle. His head is stored with invaluable maxims which have borne the test of time and use for centuries. It is his firm opinion that “it is a moral impossible,” so long as England is true to herself, that any thing can shake her: and he has much to say on the subject of the national debt; which, somehow or other, he proves to be a great national bulwark and blessing. He passed the greater part of his life in the purlieus of Little Britain, until of late years, when, having become rich, and grown into the dignity of a Sunday cane, he begins to take his pleasure and see the world. He has therefore made several excursions to Hampstead, Highgate, and other neighboring towns, where he has

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passed whole afternoons in looking back upon the metropolis through a telescope, and endeavoring to descry the steeple of St. Bartholomew's. Not a stage-coachman of Bull-and-Mouth Street but touches his hat as he passes ; and he is considered quite a patron at the coach-office of the Goose and Gridiron, St. Paul's Church-yard. His family have been very urgent for him to make an expedition to Margate, but he has great doubts of those new gimcracks, the steamboats, and indeed thinks himself too advanced in life to undertake sea-voyages.

Little Britain has occasionally its factions and divisions, and party spirit ran very high at one time in consequence of two rival “ Burial Societies” being set up in the place. One held its meeting at the Swan and Horse Shoe, and was patronized by the cheesemonger; the other at the Cock and Crown, under the auspices of the apothecary: it is needless to say that the latter was the most flourishing. I have passed an evening or two at each, and have acquired much valuable information, as to the best mode of being buried, the comparative merits of churchyards, together with divers hints on the subject of patent-iron coffins. I have heard the question discussed in all its bearings as to the legality of prohibiting the latter on account of their durability. The feuds occasioned by these societies have happily died of late ; but they were for a long time prevailing themes of controversy, the people of Little Britain being extremely solicitous of funereal honors and of lying comfortably in their graves.

Besides these two funeral societies there is a third of quite a different cast, which tends to throw the sunshine of good-humor over the whole neighborhood. It meets once a week at a little old-fashioned house, kept by a jolly publican of the name of Wagstaff, and bearing for insignia a resplendent half-moon, with

a most seductive bunch of grapes. The whole edifice is covered with inscriptions to catch the eye of the thirsty wayfarer ; such as “Truman, Hanbury, and Co.'s Entire,” “Wine, Rum, and Brandy Vaults,” “Old Tom, Rum and Compounds, etc.” This indeed has been a temple of Bacchus and Momus from time immemorial. It has always been in the family of the Wagstaffs, so that its history is tolerably preserved by the present landlord. It was much frequented by the gallants and cavalieros of the reign of Elizabeth, and was looked into now and then by the wits of Charles the Second's day. But what Wagstaff principally prides himself upon is, that Henry the Eighth, in one of his nocturnal rambles, broke the head of one of his ancestors with his famous walking-staff. This however is considered as rather a dubious and vainglorious boast of the landlord.

The club which now holds its weekly sessions here goes by the name of “ the Roaring Lads of Little Britain.” They abound in old catches, glees, and choice stories, that are traditional in the place, and not to be met with in any other part of the metropolis. There is a mad-cap undertaker who is inimitable at a merry song; but the life of the club, and indeed the prime wit of Little Britain, is bully Wagstaff himself. His ancestors were all wags before him, and he has inherited with the inn a large stock of songs and jokes, which go with it from generation to generation as heirlooms. He is a dapper little fellow, with bandy legs and pot belly, a red face, with a moist inerry eye, and a little shock of gray

hair behind. At the opening of every club night he is called in to sing his “ Confession of Faith,” which is the famous old drinking trowl from Gammer Gurton's Needle. He sings it, to be sure, with

many variations, as he received it from his father's lips; for it has been a standing favorite at the Half-Moon and Bunch of

Grapes ever since it was written : nay, he affirms that his predecessors have often had the honor of singing it before the nobility and gentry at Christmas mummeries, when Little Britain was in all its glory.*

* As mine host of the Half-Moon's Confession of Faith may not be familiar to the majority of readers, and as it is a specimen of the current songs of Little Britain, I subjoin it in its original orthography. I would observe, that the whole club always join in the chorus with a fearful thumping on the table and clattering of pewter pots.

I cannot eate but lytle meate,

My stomacke is not good,
But sure I thinke that I can drinke

With him that weares a hood.
Though I go bare, take ye no care,

I nothing am a colde,
I stuff my skyn so full within,

Of joly good ale and olde.
Backe and syde go bare, go bare,

Booth foote and hand go colde,
But belly, God send thee good ale ynoughe,

Whether it be new or olde.


I have no rost, but a nut brawne togte,

And a crab laid in the fyre ;
A little breade shall do me steade,

Much breade I not desyre.
No frost nor snow, nor winde, I trowe,

Can hurte mee, if I wolde,

I am so wrapt and throwly lapt

Of joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

It would do one's heart good to hear, on a club night, the shouts of merriment, the snatches of song, and now and then the choral bursts of half a dozen discordant voices, which issue from this jovial mansion. At such times the street is lined with listeners, who enjoy a delight equal to that of gazing into a confectioner's window, or snuffing up the steams of a cook-shop.

There are two annual events which produce great stir and sensation in Little Britain ; these are St. Bartholomew's fair, and the Lord Mayor's day. During the time of the fair, which is held in the adjoining regions of Smithfield, there is nothing going on but gossiping and gadding about. The late quiet streets of

And Tyb my wife, that, as her lyfe,

Loveth well good ale to seeke,
Full oft drynkes shee, tyll ye may see,

The teares run downe her cheeke.
Then doth shee trowle to me the bowle,

Even as a mault-worme sholde,
And sayth, sweete harte, I took my parte

Of this joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

Now let them drynke, tyll they nod and winke,

Even as goode fellowes sholde doe,
They shall not mysse to have the blisse,

Good ale doth bring men to ;
And all poore soules that have scowred bowles,

Or have them lustily trolde,
God save the lyves of them and their wives,

Whether they be yonge or olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

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