Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Yorkshireman in London 1816

I found this poem in a copy of La Belle Assemblee for February 1816 and I thought it such fun that I'm sharing it here.
For those who aren't familiar with the term "Tyke" is slang for either a cross-bred dog, or a Yorkshireman, or a naughty boy - as in, 'Stop that this minute, you little tyke!' And for anyone not familiar with Yorkshiremen, let me assure you they don't take kindly to being taken for idiots, as this tale tells.
Temple Bar, now moved to St Paul's Churchyard

 Temple Bar marked the boundary between the City of London (where Fleet Street ends) and the City of Westminster (where the Strand begins) and has now been moved close to St Paul's Cathedral. Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London and Pidcock's bears is a reference to Pidcock's Menagerie, improbably situated on an upper floor of the Exeter Change in the Strand. Billingsgate was the principal fish market of London,

It happen'd once that a young Yorkshire clown,
But newly come to far-fam'd London-town,
Was gaping round at many a wond'rous sight,
Grinning at all he saw with vast delight,
Attended by his terrier, Tyke,
Who was as sharp as sharp may be;
And thus the master and the dog, d'ye see,
Were very much alike.

The portico of Mansion House looking towards Cornhill

After wand'ring far and wide,
And seeing all the streets and squares,
And Temple-bar, and Pidcock's bears,
The Mansion-house, the Regent's Park,
And all in which your cocknies place their pride;
After being quizz'd by many a city spark,
For coat of country cut, and red-hair'd pate,
He came, at length to noisy Billinsgate;
He saw the busy scene with mute surprise,
Opening his ears and eyes
At the loud clamour and the monstrous fish,
Hereafter doom'd to grace full many a dish.

Pidcock's (also known as Polito's) Menagerie

Close by him was a turbot on a stall,
Who, with stretch'd mouth, as if to gasp for breath,
Seem'd in the agonies of death:
Said Andrew, “Pray what name d'ye that fish call?"
“A turbot, 'tis,” (said the sarcastic elf)
“A flat, you see - so something like yourself."
“ D'ye think," said Andrew, “that he'll bite?"
“Why," said the fellow, with a roguish grin,
"His mouth is open; put your finger in,
 And then you'll know." – “Why,” replied the wight,
“I shouldn’t like to try; but here's my Tyke
Shall put his tail there, an' you like."
Billingsgate Fish Market with fighting fishwives

“Agreed," rejoin'd the man, and laugh'd delight.
Within the turbot's teeth was plac'd the tail,
Who bit it too, with all his might;
The dog no sooner felt the bite
Than off he ran, the fish still holding tight;
And though old Ling began to swear and rail,
After a number of escapes and dodgings,
Tyke safely got to Master Andrew’s lodgings;
Who, when the fisherman in a passion flew,
Said, “Master, Lunnon tricks on we wont do
I've come from York to queer such flats as you;
And Tyke, my dog, is Yorkshire too!"
Then laughing at the man he went away,
And had the fish for dinner that same day.

A wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers!



Anonymous said...

Excellent! And my extensive reading of Regencies is validated by the fact that I understood the meaning of the term "flat" used as an insult by the fishmonger and the Yorkshireman.

Happy Christmas!±

Louise Allen said...

I know - great, isn't it! Even better for being sandwiched on the page between a heart-rending poem about the death of a soldier's widow after Waterloo and "Observations On Seeing the Body of Miss S-"

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I loved this, Louise. My family come from Yorkshire so I enjoyed the hero of the poem not being a flat at all but a knowing sort of cove. He did well, too: the turbot is a very big fish so he must have had several meal's worth.

Nicola Cornick said...

What a great post, Louise! As a Yorkshire lass I felt just like that on my first visit to London, gaping at all the wondrous sights! Loved the picture of the portico of Mansion House as well.

Anonymous said...

It did make me laugh, Louise. Thank you. An antidote to the grim list of children's books I posted a couple of days ago. Shows all is not grim, especially oop north!

Fenella J Miller said...

Love it - full of useful images and ideas. Thanks.
Have a great holiday.

Christina Courtenay said...

Great poem, Louise! And I like the fact that the Yorkshireman had the last laugh (although poor dog!) :)