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The Chequers Being the Natural History of a Public-House, Set Forth in a Loafer's Diary   By: (1852-1891)

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First Page:

THE CHEQUERS: BEING THE

Natural History of a Public house,

SET FORTH IN

A LOAFER'S DIARY .

EDITED BY

JAMES RUNCIMAN, AUTHOR OF "SKIPPERS AND SHELLBACKS," ETC.

London: WARD AND DOWNEY, 12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.

[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]

Dedication.

TO PHILIP WOOD AND JOHN WOOD, OF SOUTH SHIELDS.

GENTLEMEN, This record of ruined lives is inscribed to you, for it is mainly owing to you that I have gained such gruesome experience. From the day when, as a boy of seventeen, I formed my connection with your honourable house, I have owed my professional success to your culture, your generosity, and your admirable relations with the police force. My Sovereign and many other people have been pleased to approve my strange labours; but my chief distinction in life arises from my being your relative. With feelings which I cannot describe,

I remain,

Your obliged and grateful,

JAMES RUNCIMAN.

CONTENTS.

PAGE INTRODUCTION 1 THE WANDERER 6 THE PINK TOM CAT 23 TEDDY 46 THE WANDERER AGAIN 64 THE ROBBERY 77 ONE OF OUR ENTERTAINMENTS 92 MERRY JERRY AND HIS FRIENDS 108 THE GENTLEMAN, THE DOCTOR, AND DICKY 123 POACHERS AND NIGHTBIRDS 140 JIM BILLINGS 155 OUR PARLOUR COMPANY 175 A QUEER CHRISTMAS 192 JACK BROWN 215

THE CHEQUERS.

INTRODUCTION.

It is risky to go home with some of the company from the Chequers, for good fellowship is by no means fostered in the atmosphere of a public house. The creatures who write about the cheerful glass, and the jovial evening, and the drink that mellows the heart, know nothing of the sad work that goes on in a boozing place, while the persons who draw wild pictures of impossible horrors are worse than the hired men who write in publican's papers. It is the plain truth that is wanted, and one year of life in a public house teaches a man more than all the strained lectures and colourless statistics. I am going to give a series of pictures that will set forth every phase of public house life. It is useless to step casually into a bar, and then turn out a flashy article. If you want to know how Drink really acts on the inner life of this nation you must actually live among the forlorn folk who drink Circe's draught, and you must live as their equal, their friend, their confidant. I am a Loafer, and not one of the gang at The Chequers would ever dream of regarding me as anything but an equal. My friend Donkey Perkins, the fighting man, curses me with perfect affability and I am on easy terms with about one hundred costermongers. If a "gentleman" went among them he could learn nothing. Observe the hush that falls on the babble of a tap room if any well dressed person goes in; listen to the hum of warning, and then notice the laboured hypocrisy of the talk that goes on so long as the stranger is there. I have seen that odd change scores of times, and I know that nothing can be more curious than the contrast between the scrappy, harmless chat that goes on while the representative of respectability is there, and the stupid, frank brutalities which the advent of the visitor silenced.

At nights I go home with one after another of my set, and at merry seasons we stay together till early morning. They throw off all disguise before me, and even the thieves are not afraid. When once you are on level terms with the community you begin to see what is the true result of drink. The clergyman, the district visitor, the professional slummer all the people who "patronise" never learn the truth, and they positively invite the wastrel classes to lie.

Some time ago I read some "revelations" which made a great stir in the country... Continue reading book >>




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