Pick of Punch 12. This area of the blog offers a selection of entertaining quotes from Punch magazine. The following is from 7th April 1866, and offers a stark illustration of class attitudes in the 19th Century, in particular the editor’s response. The original article contains some racist language, which I have removed from the quote below.
“Sir, Mr. Punch,
“Travellers all, of every station” (as Mr. Balfe sings), and I may add, at every station, as naturally turn to you in the hour of their distress,as they do in the hour of their joy. Hear a melancholy tale.
The scene is the North London Railway. On Monday last, I got in at Stepney… that I might go to Highbury. I suppose there is no harm in going to Highbury. Whenever, as the Scotch say, but I mean as soon as the train was in motion, a lad struck up a tune on a fiddle, and played three or four old airs very hurriedly and very badly, handed round his cap, and got out at the first station we came to, to get into another carriage and repeat the nuisance. Several city gentlemen complained most lustily against such unwelcome visitors. I thought we were lucky to have got rid of him so quickly…
When at last a train did come, I found I had got into a carriage where there was a man with a melancholy accordion. He played it, Sir, and begged. Do you like accordions, Sir? It happens that I don’t. Do you like beggars, Sir? I don’t.
Well, Sir, the next day, going in an opposite direction on the same line, I had to change my seat three times to avoid the same wretch, with the same instrument of torture. Again I found myself on the Dalston Junction Platform, where the previous days’ entertainment was varied by having… a little boy and girl, aged about five and six respectively, with a whistle and some other instrument. Anything more horrible than the noise they made, I cannot conceive. It must have been instantly fatal to any quantity of old cows…
Pray, Mr. Punch, suggest a remedy for our miseries, and believe me, Your attached admirer,
A Citizen with Nerves.”
[Does our Correspondent mean to say that the above atrocities were perpetrated in first-class carriages? If not, the subject has slight interest for the Duke of Punch and his aristocratic readers. But, if such were the case, we advise that the matter be brought before Parliament on its reassembling. Is it for this that Railway Tyranny is permitted to ride rough-shod over the British hearth? Meantime, have “City Gentlemen” no toes to their boots, and have carriages no doors for the ejection of tormentors?]