No. 1067: Wilmer Place, N16
Wilmer Place, London, N16. Photo ©RogerDean 2014
Low-Life Deeps: An Account Of The Strange Fish To Be Found There – James Greenwood, 1881:
I am not disposed to go the length of altogether denying the possibility, but certainly my opportunities of observation on the evening in question coupled with previous experience warrant me in gravely doubting whether it is in the nature of a journeyman baker – an old “night-hand” – to get drunk as do other men. He does not appear to be a creature of flesh and blood. He seems as though he was stuffed with flour, which silts through the pores of his skin as mankind in general exude perspiration-provoking the absurd fancy that if you were to hang up and beat a baker as a carpet is beaten the ultimate result, when the floury clouds had cleared away, would appear in the shape of a shrivelled epidermis, empty, save for a few bones, brittle and broken, and of the consistence of a Captain’s biscuit. There were two of the unfortunate workmen in question drinking at the bar of the Jolly Sandboys. That they had but just left work was evident from the mealiness of their jackets and their slow, dull eyes, aching for want of sleep. They were elderly men both, and their faces were well lined with age, and having to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow in a floury atmosphere, had imparted to their countenances the strange appearance of being made up of irregular bits neatly fitted together like the pieces of a child’s puzzle. The two melancholy old bakers did not drink in company with the other drinkers, but worshipped Old Tom with the haggard and almost hopeless aspect of men who were aware that it was as idle to expect a kindling of their depressed spirits by means of swallowing gin as to endeavour to ignite damp wood with a single lucifer match. All round about them the jolly tipplers lit up anew every time they added fresh fuel to the already brisk conflagration within them, but the pair of drouthy old bakers did not mellow in the least, even when, between them they had emptied three quartern measures. It was like throwing glasses of water on a sand heap the gin they swallowed, and there appeared not the least indication of their “clay” being a bit moister at the conclusion than at the commencement of their endeavours.
[The whole of Greenwood’s Low-Life Deeps can be read at www.victorianlondon.org. R.D.]