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Real Life For Children, 1819

August 4, 2022
by the gentle author

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Long before the internet and before photography, the first means of cheap mass-distribution of images was woodcuts. These appealing examples, enlarged from originals no larger than a thumbnail, are selected from a set of chapbooks, Pictures Of Real Life For Children, Printed & Sold by R.Harrild, Great Eastcheap, London. Believed to date from around 1819, the series included some Cries Of London and, in spite of the occasionally pious text, these are sympathetic and characterful portrayals of working people.

While some are intended as illustrations of professional types, such as Mr Prescription the physician, others are clearly portraits, such as the Rhubarb Seller who was also included in William Marshall Craig’s Itinerant Traders of 1804. Although we shall never know who they all were, the expressive nature of each of these lively cuts – achieved with such economy of means – leads me to suspect that many were based upon specific individuals who were recognisable to readers in London at that time.

Man with his Dancing Bear. This curious sight is frequently seen about the streets of this great city, and is far from being the most contemptible.

Mary Fairlop was always industrious, she rises with the lark to pursue her labour.

Mr Prescription, the physician, is taking the round among his patients. He is pleased to see Master Goodchild so well. By taking his physic as he ought, he is just recovered from a dangerous illness.

This is Mr Ridewell, the smart little groom, who is noted for keeping himself, his stable, and his master’s horse clean.

The Farmer.

The Milkmaid.

Hair Brooms.

Clothes Props. “Buy a Prop, a prop for your clothes.”

“Pickled Salmon, Newcastle Salmon.” Here comes Johnny Rollins, known for selling Newcastle salmon.

“Fine Yorkshire Cakes, Muffins and Crumpets.” In addition to his vocal abilities, this man has lately introduced a bell, by which means the streets are saluted every morning and afternoon with vocal and instrumental music.

“Rhubarb! Rhubarb!” This is a well-known character in our metropolis. He is a Turk as his habit bespeaks him. With his box before him, he offers his rhubarb to every passerby.

“Live Cod, dainty fresh Cod.” Much praise is due to the Fishman for his honest endeavours to obtain a livelihood. At break of day, he is seen at Billingsgate buying fish, and before noon he has been heard in most parts of the metropolis.

“Old Clothes, any shoes, hats or old Clothes.”

This is John Honeysuckle, the industrious gardener, with a myrtle in his hand, the produce of his garden. He is justly celebrated for his beautiful bowpots and nosegays all round the country.

The Nut Woman.

“Beer!” This is the publican with the nice white apron. I like this man’s beer, he keeps the Coach & Horses and his pots always look so clean.

This porter, for his industry and obliging disposition, is respected.

The Cooper is just now with adze in hand. hooping a large wine cask, which is part of a large order he has received from a merchant who trades to the East and West Indies.

The Pedlar.

The Organ Grinder.

The Watchman.

You may also like to take a look at these other sets of the Cries of London

London Characters

Geoffrey Fletcher’s Pavement Pounders

Faulkner’s Street Cries

William Craig Marshall’s Itinerant Traders

London Melodies

Henry Mayhew’s Street Traders

H.W.Petherick’s London Characters

John Thomson’s Street Life in London

Aunt Busy Bee’s New London Cries

Marcellus Laroon’s Cries of London

John Player’s Cries of London

More John Player’s Cries of London

William Nicholson’s London Types

John Leighton’s London Cries

Francis Wheatley’s Cries of London

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana of 1817

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana II

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana III

Thomas Rowlandson’s Lower Orders

More of Thomas Rowlandson’s Lower Orders

Adam Dant’s  New Cries of Spittlefields

Victorian Tradesmen Scraps

Cries of London Scraps

2 Responses leave one →
  1. August 4, 2022

    I love the gardener especially. You might like this about Robert Harrild, especially the comments by some of his descendants:

  2. Helen Billing permalink
    August 5, 2022

    Dear Gentle Author
    I have been a regular reader of your blog for years and appreciate your excellent writing style.

    I was particularly interested in this blog: “Real Life for Children” because the publisher is Robert Harrild. R. Harrild was in partnership with my husband’s third great grandfather, Edward Billing, in 1801 and for a few years after that. Robert married Edward’s sister, Elizabeth, in 1801.

    Robert Harrild did better in his printing business than my husband’s ancestor. Trade directories indicate that he was a letter-press printer, a publisher and a bookseller. According to advertisements in the early 1900s, Mr. Harrild developed and manufactured the first composition rollers for printing in 1809. His daughter, Mary, married George Baxter who developed the Baxter colour printing process.

    We have uncut printer’s pages of “Riddle Book” and “The House that Jack Built” probably printed about the same time as “Real Life for Children”. The pictures are also from woodcuts.

    I would love to join your walking tours but I do not live in England.

    Thank you for bringing this book to my attention.

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