In “The Rector of Saint David’s,” Chapter 126 of Reynolds’s The Mysteries of London, the narrator pauses in his narration of the way Lady Cecilia succeeds in seducing the supposedly saintly Reverend Reginald Tracy to present a horrific picture of unchristian class discrimination in a fashionable London church. As is common throughout the novel, it is the police who enforce class prejudice and injustice. — George P. Landow

A crowd of well-dressed persons, of both sexes, poured into the chapel of Saint David's. The street was lined with carriages; and when each in its turn drew up at the door of the sacred edifice, the élite of the aristocracy might have been observed to alight and hasten to form part of the immense congregation assembled to hear the most popular preacher of the day.

The interior of the chapel was vast, and of a convenient oblong form. It was lofty, and beautifully fitted up. On three sides were large and roomy galleries, amphitheatrically arranged with pews. The magnificent organ stood in the gallery over the entrance; and at the further end was the communion-table. The pulpit, with its annexed reading-desk, stood a little in front of the altar, and facing the organ. The pews both of the galleries and the body of the church were provided with soft cushions; for this was a proprietary chapel, and there was but a slender accommodation for the poor. Indeed, this class occupied plain benches in the aisles, and were compelled to enter by a small side-door so that they might not mingle with the crowd of elegantly dressed ladies and fashionable gentlemen that poured into the chapel through the grand entrance in front.

A policeman maintained order at the side-door, which admitted the humbler classes; but two beadles, wearing huge cocked hats and ample blue cloaks bedizened with broad gold-lace, and holding gilt wands in their hands, cleared the way for the wealthy, the great, and the proud, who enjoyed the privilege of entrance by means of the front gates.

"This way, my lord. Pray step this way, my lady," said the polite beadles, in their blandest tones. "The pew-opener is in attendance, my lord. My lady, here is the hymn-book, which your ladyship commanded me to procure for your ladyship. My lord, take care of the step. This door, ladies, if you please. Gentlemen, this way, if you would be so condescending. Yes, sir — certainly, sir — the pew-opener will find you a seat, sir — immediately, sir. Ladies, this way is less crowded. You will find the left aisle comparatively empty. My lord, straight forward, if your lordship will be so good. Ladies, the pew-opener is in attendance. This way, ladies and gentlemen!"

And at the side-door the policeman might be heard vociferating in somewhat like the following manner: —

"Now, then, you young woman, where the deuce are you pushing to? Want to get a good place, eh? What! with sich a rag of a shawl as that there? — I'm afeard I can't admit you. Now, boy, stand back, or I'll show you the reason why. I say, old woman, you ain't wanted here; we doesn't take in vimen with red cloaks. You'd better go to the dissenting chapel round the corner, you had: that's good enow for you. Holloa! what's this mean? a sweep in his Sunday toggery. Come, come; that's rayther too strong, chummy. You toddle off, now. Here, young woman, you may come in; you may — 'cos you're very pretty: that way, my dear. Holloa! here comes a feller without a nose. No — no — that won't do at no price; my orders is partickler; no von comes here vithout a nose. Vy, you'd frighten all the great ladies out o' their vits. They already complains of the riff-raff that comes to this here chapel; so we must try and keep it se-lect — just like Gibbs's westry. Ha! ha! now then, who's that blaigaird a-talking so loud there? It's on'y me as can talk here at this door, 'cos I'm official — I am. This vay, young woman: push the door, my dear. Well, if you ain't married, I'm sure you ought to be. Now, then, who's that a guffawing like a rhinoceros? I'll clap a stopper on your mug, I will. Come, come; you go back, old chap: no workus-livery here; this is the wrong shop for the workus people; this is — I can tell yer. Vell, you're a genteel couple, I don't think — coming to a pro-pri-ai-tory chapel vithout no gloves, and fists as black as tinkers. Stand back there, boys, and let that young gal vith the yaller ribands come up: she's decent, she is. Yes, my dear, — you may go in, my dear. Now, then, stand back — no more comes in this mornin': the orgin's begun."

With these words the policeman thrust the poor people violently down the steps, entered the chapel, and closed the door in their faces.

Related material


Reynolds, George W. M. The Mysteries of London. vol 1. Project Gutenberg EBook #47312 produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team from images available at Google Books. Web. 2 August 2016.

Last modified 26 September 2016