Snippets 156. During the latter half of the 19th Century, horse drawn omnibuses were a popular means of transport. Some of these were even double decker, with uncovered benches on the top deck. A familiar sight greeting a traveller at a railway station was a smaller horsebus, designed to carry between four and six people, with the roof space generally used for luggage.
Commenting on the character of the English in public places, Max O’Rell discusses their behaviour on trains and in horsebuses. In general, the observation seems to be that the English were unusually keen to keep themselves to themselves.
When he enters an omnibus or a railway carriage, if he does not recognise any one, he eyes his fellow travellers askance in a sulky and suspicious way. He seems to say, “What a bore it is that all you people can’t walk home, and let a man have the carriage comfortably to himself!” It must be admitted though, that the notices with the advice, “Beware of pickpockets, male and female,” which confront him in these places, are quite enough to cool his gallantry, be it said for his justification.
London omnibuses are made to seat six persons on each side. These places are not marked out. When, on entering, you find five people on either hand, you must not hope to see any one move to make room for you. No, here everything is left to personal initiative. You simply try to spy out the two pairs of thighs that seem to you the best padded, and with all your weight you let yourself down between them. No need to apologise, no one will think of calling you a bad name.
If you open the door to let a woman alight, she will say, “Thank you” to you, if she be a lady. If she happen not to be, you will get no thanks, and should be only too happy if her look do not seem to say, “Mind your own business.”…
Outside his own house John Bull is not communicative: he leaves his neighbour alone, and expects to receive a like treatment at his hands. If you remark to an Englishman, in a smoking compartment that he has dropped some cigar-ash on his trousers, he will probably answer: “For the past ten minutes I have seen a box of matches on fire in your back coat pocket, but I did not interfere with you for that.”
The photograph above was taken when I was a child, and I was the boy holding the advertising sign for Lavant Workwear. The photograph is (c) Lavant Workwear and may not be reproduced without permission please.
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