Esoteric London

No. 588: Old Brompton Road, SW5

Posted in London Labour by esotericlondon on May 30, 2012

Old Brompton Road, London, SW5. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

Curiosities of London Life – Charles Manby Smith, 1853:

The subject of our present sketch is a personage of no small importance, and of that, by the way, judging by his despotic management of a coterie of small boys usually to be found at his heels, no one is more fully conscious than himself. He may be said to live in the eye of the public as much, if not more, than any other man of his day; and is, whatever pretenders may choose to think, or cavillers to say to the contrary, essentially a public character. He is a literary man in a sense at once the most literal and extensive, and he caters for the major part of the population almost the only literature that they ever peruse. He is a publisher to boot, whose varied and voluminous works, unscathed by criticism, are read by all the world, and go through no end of editions. It is an axiom of somebody’s – whose, we forget just now – that most men look at the world, and all things in it, through the medium of their own profession. If that be the case; how does the billsticker regard it? What tricks does his fancy play him? What are the myths ever revolving before his imagination? Is there a golden age looming in the distant future of his hopes? A good time coming, when every wall and hoarding, every house-front, window-shutter, and now interdicted inclosure – from the ‘palaces of crowned kings,’ down to the humblest ‘habitations of all things that dwell’ – shall be patent to his paste-brush, open as charity to his broadsheet, and when he shall no longer be compelled to trudge beneath his heavy load in all weathers, through weary miles of mud and rain, in search of a sanctuary where the art and mystery of his calling is not forbidden? When he sleeps at peace, after the labours of the day, does he dream of vast timber-hoards in endless perspective, without a single broadside on their virgin surfaces, all waiting to receive, in a shower of double-royal posters, the contributions of the press? And if after supping upon apocryphal pork-sausages, he should happen to have the nightmare, does the vampire-visage of the fiend bestriding the paste-pot which sits so heavily on his chest, bear on its lurid forehead the dreadful inscription, or does it shriek in his horror-stricken ears the terrible accents ‘Billstickers, beware?’

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