SENSATIONALISM, according to certain individuals, whose information is supposed to be absolutely trustworthy, is rapidly on the increase. Such being the case, any attempt of a writer to set forth scenes descriptive of what actually transpires in the streets of the East End at midnight may brand the scribe as an unfortunate pessimist. Strictly confining myself to the adage, "the truth requires no exaggeration," I shall at once proceed to give my experience as a lounger in the neighbourhood of Mile End, depending upon impartial observers to bear me out in any remarks I may have to make.
It wanted but a very few minutes to 12 o'clock on Saturday night when I found myself stationed at the corner of Houndsditch, patiently awaiting something of an exciting nature to occupy my fertile imagination.
Just as the midnight chimes solemnly proclaimed the approaching dawn of another day I was looking with considerable amusement at a party of four Jews, who were occupied as an oratorical combat of a somewhat exciting character. On making my way up to these talkative individuals, I soon learned that their argument had reference to the strike in the fur trade. From the remarks that passed, three of these gentlemen were Socialists, who expressed surprise at the manner in which "Englishmen" allowed their rights to be so shamefully "trodden under foot." Their jargon was creating quite a sensation, and yet there was no policeman near to admonish these midnight orators.
Proceeding leisurely along towards Mile End Road I found plenty of material to occupy my attention until I had reached Commercial Street. On casting a hurried glance around I discovered in a doorway a suspicious-looking person, who appeared to be wrapped in the heavenly contemplation of his surroundings. Thinking that possibly this eccentric-looking individual was in some way connected with the stage (his very appearance suggested the heavy villain,) I determined to make enquiries, and so satisfy my inquisitive nature. Boldly making my way up to a detective-officer, whose face was not unknown to me, and who was engaged in a serious conversation with a constable, I asked whether the individual in the doorway was in any way connected with the police force. "Oh," answered the police officer, with a disagreeable shrug of his shoulders, "he is what is commonly known as a vigilant man, who is practically useless for midnight work. In less than an hour he will be asleep." This august remark was evidently intended as a little sarcasm against a body of men whose work is certainly not enviable. Wishing the two officers a good night I plodded on until I reached the popular house known as the Blind Beggar. Here a crowd was assembled in hearing a dispute between a man and wife. Both were very much the worse for liquor, and they were not long before they came to serious blows. This pugilistic display lasted fully 10 minutes before a constable made his appearance, much to the disgust of the bye-standers.
Leaving this not by any means edifying spectacle, I walked on to Cleveland Street where a boisterous group were singing the music-hall ditty -
"Drink up boys, and have a glass with me,
For it isn't every day I am out upon the spree,
I'm all right for I've got the £ s. d.,
And I mean to keep it up for I'm as happy as can be."
Judging by their personal appearance they would have done far better if they had expended a few pence on having their wearing apparel overhauled, as they certainly looked very much the worse for wear. These disorderly persons were subsequently seen to parade the road, shouting at the top of their voices some song of a nauseating character without any interferences on the part of the police. From Cleveland Street right down as far as Globe Bridge I counted no less than 10 distinct parties of men, women, boys and girls, all indulging in some popular refrain. Surely the police are not altogether powerless to stop these midnight prowlers from disturbing peaceable citizens. There was one very sad sight I witnessed at Globe Road, where a dozen or so persons had assembled. A young girl, who certainly had not attained to her eighteenth year, was carrying a sickly infant in her arms. A finely built young fellow, who was considerably the worse for liquor, and who was apparently the husband of the girl, was entreated by the latter to come home. Muttering some inaudible sentence, this fine young fellow, without the slightest provocation, struck his wife a cowardly blow, and then offered to fight any one of the bystanders. This was more than mortal man could bear, and one burly-looking individual, who had every appearance of a publican, roughly seized him by the neck and proceeded to march him in the direction of home.
Another disorderly scene was taking place on Stepney Green, but strange to say there were actually three or four policemen present. Has Mr. Charrington's interference with the roughs of this neighbourhood borne good fruit? It certainly looks very much like it, and the sooner other disinterested gentlemen make complaints of midnight rowdyism, the more safe will our streets be for late pedestrians.