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Stow informs us it was the custom for the citizens of London to pass through the streets at night, attended by an apprentice or journeyman, who carried a lanthorn and lighted candle, and a long club, which rested on one shoulder.
The term Cockney applied to the natives of the city of London, or that part of it in antient times enclosed by a wall, and supposed to live within reach of the sound of Bow-bell, is of greater antiquity than the custom is commendable. Shakspeare makes use of it in a ludicrous sense: but Mr. Douce, in his comments on certain passages of the plays of that excellent dramatist, seems to think, “ that it originates in an Utopian region of indolence and luxury, formerly denominated the country of Cocaigne.” However that may be the fact, we know other English writers anterior to Shakspeare used it in the same
As the inhabitants of all great cities live in habits of comparative ease and luxury with those in the country (and particularly so when the word was introduced), Mr. Douce's solution appears extremely probable. At present we seldom hear it applied except in a playful way. Indeed, the writers for newspapers annually indulge in witticisms upon the efforts of the Londoners in sporting, when the first day of September arrives; and describe, with no small degree of whimsicality, the supposed mistakes of the cockney in shooting cats for hares, tame ducks for
wild, pigs, dogs and poultry for game; and, to complete the whole, one is made to kill an owl, which he imagined to be a non-descript; but is afterwards convinced, to the dread of his eternal punishment, it was nothing less than a cherub.
When we walk the streets of London, and turn our attention towards blank walls, public buildings, and corners, little need be said on the prevalence of the custom of bill-sticking, or pasting advertisements on those places ; as we have specimens of all sizes and colours, from the shape and dimensions of a card (almost requiring spectacles to peruse it), up to the enormous lottery bill, legible at five hundred feet distance. Our predecessors probably never thought of the perfection at which we have arrived in this art: their advertisements were no doubt stationary. We have, however, contrived to give them motion and change of place, by sending them round the city on hackney coaches, and to different parts of the environs, affixed to errand carts ; nay, we ornament them with lottery-wheels, money-bags, and caricatures of fortunate gamblers. In one particular we have really improved on the custom of antient times, when notices were intruded in places sacred to religion. As to the time when this mode of informing the publick was adopted, there cannot be a doubt that it was coeval with the art of writing on
parchment and paper, and general ability to read that writing. If written advertisements then were known and used, surely the art of printing spread the custom in all directions; and, without descending to particulars, we are convinced that posting-bills have been frequently mentioned in works published in the time of Elizabeth, and her immediate successors.
Sir John Harrington mentions several anecdotes of Bonner, bishop of London, which are illustrative of manners. The bigotry and cruelty of this zealous papist are perfectly well known. In his own time, he was so much detested, that when the mob in the streets saw an ill-looking corpulent person, they exclaimed, “ There is Bonner!" After he had been deprived twice, he was observed walking with his tippet round his neck: a wag, who met him, entreated it might be given to him to line a coat. The exbishop, understanding the taunt, replied, “ No: but thou shalt have a fool's head to line thy cap."
“Good morrow, bishop quondam,” said another.
“ Farewell, knave semper,” answered Bonner. He was once shewn a representation of himself, in the first edition of the Book of Martyrs, in a reproachful manner : he laughed, and said, “ A vengeance on the fool, how could he get my picture drawn so right?" On another occasion he was asked, if he did not feel ashamed of having been the cause of whipping a man who
had a beard? He answered, with a laugh, his beard had grown since: but he added, “ If thou badst been in his case, thou wouldst have thought it a good commutation of penance to have thy bum beaten, to save thy body from burning.”
Alchemistry, as it was originally called, is mentioned by Chaucer, in the Canon's Man's Prologue; who thus describes the professors of alchemy and their dupes :
They take upon them to turn upside down All the earth between Southwark and Canterbury
town, And to pave it all of silver and gold, &c. But ever they lack of their conclusion, And to much folk they do illusion. For their stuff slides away so fast, That it makes them beggars at the last; And by this craft they do never win, But make their purse empty, and their wits thin.”
The inventors of the art of converting other metals into gold were too wise to omit confounding their processes with quantum sufficit of technical terms, and by using quantities of simples, drugs, and confections. Mr. Scot, who treated of its pernicious consequences in the reign of Elizabeth, has strung togetủer the words subliming, amalgaming, englutting, imbibing, incorporating, cementing, retrination, terminations, mollifications, and indurations of bodies; matters
combust and coagular, ingots, tests with orpiment, sublimed mercury, iron squames, mercury crude, groundly large, bole ammoniac, verdigrease, borace, boles, gall, arsenick, sal ammoniac, brimstone, salt, pepper, burnt bones, 'unslaked lime, clay, saltpetre, vitriol, sal tartar, alcali, sal preparat, clay made with horse-dung, man's hair, oil of tartar, alum, glass, wort, yeast, argoll, resager, gleir of an eye, powders, ashes, dung, p-, &c. &c.; and proceeds with their waters corrosive, and lineall of albification and rubifying; their oils, ablution, and metals fusible; their lamps, urinals, disensories, sublimatories, alembics, viols, crossets, cucurbits, stillatories, and their furnace of calcination; their soft and subtle fires of beechwood and coal; and, to excite wonder in the ignorant, they worked by the agency of four spirits--orpiment, quicksilver, sal ammoniac, and brimstone: then they had seven celestial bodies-Sol, Luna, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus ; represented by the terrestrial - gold, silver, iron, quicksilver, lead, tin, and copper.
Such were the terms and the ingredients of the alchemist; whose pretended aim was to attain the composition of what they called the philosopher's stone--Alixer ; and a second, Titanus Magnatia - a water composed of the four elements, they were sworn never to write of, or discover to man. By these they affected to decompose quicksilver,