Tom And Bob Drink With Coal Porters In Masquerade


A break from the maps… yet more of the rats’ warren of Georgian information online. I have no idea what I am going to do with it. Seems a bit of a waste. But then you find this, Real Life In London, Volumes I and II by one Pierce Egan. It’s an 1821 fictional exploration of London’s nightlife high and low by gentlemen cousins Tom and Bob – including a drinking session in a pub known as the Black Diamond… or Charley’s Crib wearing “tatter’d garments and slouch’d hats” to hide their identities:

…they were in a house of call for Coal Porters. Before the president (who, by way of distinction, had turned the broad flap of his coal-heaving hat forward in the fashion of a huntsman’s cap) was placed a small round table, on which stood a gallon measure of heavy wet. On his right sat a worn-out workman fast asleep, and occasionally affording his friends around him a snoring accompaniment to a roar of laughter.

As you know I enjoy seeing what is to be found in an image of pub life like this one from 1775 but the adventures of Tom and Bob go the next step and add text description to the information in the image. You can read the story yourself. It’s not much good 194 years after the fact but look at the information that’s stuck away in there:

• Drinks: They are drinking quarts of ale. Porter-pots. There is a gallon pitcher in the middle of the floor on a small table. Punch served in bowls but taken by the glass.

• Manners: hats stay on. A penny is placed in a dish for seemingly unending supply of tobacco. No credit. Singin’ and dancin’ for each other is the entertainment.

• Slang: the drinking session is a “heavy-wet”. Not sure what “blue ruin” is… no, I go – it’s gin. They all seem to have an accent with “v for “w” – why? “Quawt” for quart. “Toast” has the modern meaning.

• Space: The tables are set in a horseshoe. Candle light. Service from the middle. The text says this is a public house but it seems more like a club.

In itself, its not going to win the Nobel for literature anytime soon. But at well over 800 pages, a pretty extensive effort to describe the scene even if through the lens of two upper class twits. Hardly lines up with the stories told in the court reports from about the same time. Which is fine. That case of the ten year old getting off murder charges in 1756 after throwing a knife into the chest of mom’s abusive boyfriend was a bit much.

One thought on “Tom And Bob Drink With Coal Porters In Masquerade”

  1. [Original comments…]

    bailey – June 24, 2015 5:20 AM
    Just wanted to say, for the record, that Boak and I are both enjoying these posts. Would make for a good e-book — ‘A Time Traveller’s Pub Guide to Georgian London’, or something like that?

    Alan – June 24, 2015 8:52 AM
    You are very kind to say so. It’s a bit compelling and all about context. Sort of an antidote to the idea that there were generally healthy relationships with beer before temperence. It’s all a bit gruesome. Alley gangs. That was a new one yesterday.

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