The following verses, which appear in The Mysteries of London, dramatize the collision of well-meaning liberal do-gooders with an actual chimney sweep, who has already been corrupted by his life of poverty, broken families, and gin — still, all these years after Hogarth’s Gin Lane, the narcotic of choice for the poor, even though, according to Reynolds, much of it is adulterated with dangerous substances.
"Pray, who's the little boy that is dancing so nimbly?
Come, Mary, bring a halfpenny down.—"
"Please, ma'am, I'm the feller as swept your chimbley,
And I'm very much obleeged for the brown.—"
"Alas! how his schooling has been neglected!
But perhaps his kind father's dead?—"
"No, ma'am; he's a tinker as is wery much respected
And this mornin' he's drunk in bed.—"
"Perchance 'tis a motherless child that they've fixed on
To dance. Does your mamma live still?—"
"Yes, ma'am; at this moment she's stayin' at Brixton,
Vith a gen'leman as keeps a mill.—"**
"Poor child, he is miserably clad! How shocking!
Not to give him some clothes were a sin!—"
"Thank'ee, ma'am; but I doesn't want no shoe nor stocking,
I'd rayther have a quartern o' gin!"
**The tread-mill [Reynolds protested its use for punishment in Victorian prisons,]
Reynolds, George W. M. The Mysteries of London. vol 2. Project Gutenberg EBook #51294. Produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. Web. 27 September 2016.
Last modified 11 October 2016