No. 866: Copenhagen Street, N1
Copenhagen Street, London, N1. Photo © Roger Dean 2013
Street Life in London – J.Thomson and Adolphe Smith, 1877:
ITALIAN STREET MUSICIANS.
ITALIAN boys and Savoyard children have always excited the interest and sympathy of northern peoples. It is perhaps difficult to attribute any sound reason to this fact, and we may question whether it is altogether just, that a comparatively speaking well-to-do foreigner should elicit more commiseration than the squalid and degraded fellow-countrymen who swarm in our streets. But there is an element of romance about the swarthy Italian youth to which the English poor cannot aspire. Then there is something irresistible in the bright glitter of his eyes, in his cheerful gait, and his fascinating manners; while the English mendicant is coarse, ungainly, dirty, rude of speech, unartist-like in his appearance, out of tune when he sings, vulgar in all his deeds, and often bears the stamp of a hopeless drunkard. This perhaps explains how it is that Italians, Sons of peasants, agricultural labourers, and others who might lead respectable lives in their own country, prefer to come over to England where they are sometimes treated as mere beggars. They find that a beggar in England is richer than a labourer in Italy; and if he be not equally prosperous it is because he is not equally abstemious and economical. The Italian, therefore, migrates with the knowledge that he may rely on the generosity of the English, and that, if he only receives as much as many of the English poor, he may hope to save enough to buy himself a farm in his own country. They arrive, therefore, in shoals, and seeing how their presence is appreciated, do not realize the somewhat humiliating character of their avocation. Many, on the contrary, proudly claim a right to be ranked above the mendicant class. They urge, and to a certain extent justly, that they are of use to the community; that, as a rule, their performance, whether with the barrel-organ, the piano-organ, the harp, fiddle, or other instrument, gratifies the majority of their hearers, and propagates the love for music among the poor.