No. 884: Ezra Street, E2
Ezra Street, London, E2. Photo © Roger Dean 2013
Toilers in London – One of the Crowd [James Greenwood], :
“THERE is nothing to be done in the street physic line o’ business without plenty of patter,” as a vendor of a miraculous toothache tincture – at one penny the bottle – confided to me. “In neighbourhoods like this” (Brick Lane, Spitalflelds), “any amount of mumbo-jumbo, as we call it, goes down. Keep it going, and be genteel in giving mouth to your h’s.’ Never mind about its being proper. Whatever word you use that will bear a good sounding ‘h,’ let it have it. It sounds hedgerkated, and as though you’ve been through your degrees, or whatever you call ‘em. That’s why I wear this mortarboard cap. There’s a flavour of college and university about it. Do I know anything about dentistry? Not me. I’m a house-painter – when there’s anything in that line stirring, which is for about three months out of twelve. Where did I get that decayed lot of human teeth from? I bought ‘em up at the Cattle Market, at Islington – where you can buy any mortal second-hand thing on Fridays. I bought very nigh half a peck of ‘em for fifteenpence. Enough to give anybody the toothache to look at ‘em. ‘Course they are. That’s the purpose of ‘em. They give the clue to a lot of patter. ‘It is not because I’m sellin’ my specific in the streets of London,’ says I, ‘that you must suppose, ladies and gentlemen, that I ham heither hignorant hor hinexperienced. I give you hoptical hevidence of the many begscruciatin’ hoperations I’ve performed on the masticatory horgans of the human frame. Every one of them teeth you see before you, both marlows and hinsisors, was drawn from the human jaw by this hand – the hagony of which caused me to give my mind to the invention I now offer you. It is not honly the hagony of hextraction, it is the danger of a fractured jawbone, which here is one in the bottle, the young woman belonging to which was hoperated on at Guy’s at the time when I was walking the hospitals.’”
“And is that a human jawbone?” I asked him, pointing to the osseous specimen suspended in some liquid by a string.
“Well, I don’t mind telling you, it’s a sheep’s,” he replied frankly; “but it’s only to hillustrate the hargyment like, and it does just as well.
[The whole of the book from which the above extract was taken can be read at www.victorianlondon.org. R.D.]