Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2011
Sketches by Boz – Charles Dickens, 1836:
…if you see hurrying along a by street, keeping as close as he can to the area railings, a man of about forty or fifty, clad in an old rusty suit of threadbare black cloth which shines with constant wear as if it had been bees waxed – the trousers tightly strapped down, partly for the look of the thing and partly to keep his old shoes from slipping off at the heels, – if you observe, too, that his yellowish white neckerchief is carefully pinned up, to conceal the tattered garment underneath, and that his hands are encased in the remains of an old pair of beaver gloves, you may set him down as a shabby-genteel man. A glance at that depressed face, and timorous air of conscious poverty, will make your heart ache – always supposing that you are neither a philosopher nor a political economist….
…It would be a task of [...] difficulty, either to assign any particular spot for the residence of these beings, or to endeavour to enumerate their general occupations. We were never engaged in business with more than one shabby-genteel man; and he was a drunken engraver, and lived in a damp back-parlour in a new row of houses at Camden Town, half street, half brick-field, somewhere near the canal.