Page images
PDF
EPUB

immoveable rock, tall enough for a light-house, and will not run against you if you do not run against her; and as for Charybdis, it is no great splash,--a little bubbling of the water, a short chopping wave or two when the wind blows, but nothing that ever gave a sailor a wet jacket; you might paddle over this mighty whirlpool in a pumpkin shell: such are the humbugs of antiquity.

Why the crew were so rejoiced to get to land I cannot tell, unless it was that they might eat the more. I verily believe there is not such another set of gormandizers upon earth as the Neapolitans. They talk of nothing else but eating; mangia, mangia, mangia is the eternal sound that rings in your ear as you go through the streets of Naples. The piles of macaroni that one person will swallow would frighten an alderman : the lazzaroni, as is well known, eat it by the yard. The army is enlisted for no other purpose than to eat; you never see a soldier do any thing but trundle his provision-cart from the magazine to the barracks. As to their sailors, a vessel of thirty tons has a crew of fifteen or twenty men, one-half of whom are always eating, while the other half manage the vessel. I watched their movements attentively during the voyage, and upon my corporeal oath, there was not a moment in the whole passage when their chaps were not going. The vegetables that formed a part of our stores were piled upon deck, and they made a heap like a haystack. Fruges consumere nati ; if ever a people under the sun merited this description it is the Neapolitans.

If the crew, however, felt a joy at the sight, so did we, though not from the cause I have guessed at above. We were about to set foot on Italian soil, nay, on the continent of Europe, for the first time; and most sublimely did I feel of course at this interesting moment. But from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a single step, (I think somebody has said it before.) The step was made as we landed at the Mole.

It was necessary to have our luggage examined by the custom-house officers, and the moment we set foot on shore we were surrounded by a troop of doganieri with shouldered muskets and swords at their sides lest something should be smuggled. It is true we were from Sicily, no foreign part-but that mattered nothing, a doganiere would overhaul you in passing from one street to another, could he find the least shadow of a pretext for it. Travellers are free plunder with these fellows, and no chance of squeezing their pockets is suffered to pass unimproved. The sight of a trunk is the prospect of sure gain, for there is no escaping these great pests of Italian travelling; “ they stop the chariot, and they board the barge." Bisogna fare la visita must be answered with a prompt compliance; then it is “ open locks, whoever knocks,” and he who wishes to avoid trouble and delay must grease the fingers of his annoyer with silver ointment, that it may slip through his luggage the easier. We had nothing but the common travelling apparatus and submitted to the scrutiny with all patience, and no fears for the result. One package after another was fumbled, and nothing found worthy of seizure; but at length on groping within a basket which purported to contain only a table-cloth and

napkins, the eye of the searcher brightened up with a sudden gleam.

C'é qualche cosa qui dentro,exclaimed he, with the air of one who had made an important discovery.

Niente,was my reply.

He plucked it forth without heeding my assurance that it was nothing, and drew to light something rolled up in a napkin. Now the reader may as well be informed that in tossing our baggage into the boat, the

igazzo who acted as our steward on board ship, had, in his zeal to execute matters with scrupulous fidelity, laid hands upon a bacon bone from which we had breakfasted that morning, and thrust it into the basket aforesaid. In this manner, without being aware of it, we had been detected in the act of smuggling one pound and three-quarters of smokedried pig's flesh, which, coming under the general denomination of salame, as we were informed, was liable to duty according to the ordinance in such case made and provided.

Come niente ?" exclaimed the doganiere, unrolling the napkin, and exposing the interloping scrag of bacon to view. “Eccolo."

« Ecco !” cried another of the troop, holding up his hands.

Ecco !” said a third ; Ecco !said a fourth; and all crowded round the basket. The thing was not to be concealed: there lay a pound and three-quarters of bacon staring them in the face. In a moment a mighty jabbering, shrugging of shoulders, tossing of heads, and flourishing of arms ensued. I knew not at first what to make of this sudden movement. Least of all did I imagine that the morsel of meat before me had caused such a stir.

Che e'e ?" demanded I.
Il dazio," was the reply.
“ The duty ? What, a duty on a bacon bone !"
“ Si, signore."

I could not avoid bursting into a laugh on the instant, though the officers preserved the most inflexible gravity. My next impulse was to seize the article, and throw itinto the street, by way of convincing them, from the little value I set upon it, that no premeditated act of smuggling had been practised; but a second thought withheld me. out the play,” said I to myself; “ here is a chance for witnessing such a comedy as I never saw before.” So putting on a grave look, I shook my head, and stood by to see the result.

Had I not witnessed the whole transaction, I never could have been made to believe that sixteen custom-house officers, gendarmes, and sbirri, would have been summoned together in grand divan to deliberate upon the course to be pursued in relation to a mouthful of bacon. Yet so it was; a messenger was despatched to the Grand Custom-house with intelligence of the seizure—the whole party assembled on the spot where the event took place, from whence they adjourned to à corpo di guardia in the neighbourhood, in order to consult on the affair with more convenience. Here, in a room guarded at the door by sentinels with fixed bayonets, the

scrag of bacon was placed on the floor in the centre, the officers formed a circle around it, and the consultation began. It was too capital a scene to be lost by any man that had a sense of humour.

I ran off full speed for my companion, who had gone to accompany two ladies to their hotel. " For heaven's sake, H -," exclaimed I, “ make haste and come along with me.”

" What is the matter ?”

“ Matter! such matter as will give you food for meditation as long as you live, or you are not the man I take you for."

“Heyday! what mischief is breeding now."

o Let me play

“Breeding! aye, breeding on a grand scale. Come and see a convocation of sixteen owls sitting upon a goose-egg."

“ You are farcical!"

“ Of course ; 'tis the way here, I find; and you will find so too, if you will but just accompany me. I'll show you a farce for nothing, and a better one than ever was played within the walls of a theatre. 'Tis entitled, 'The Bone of Contention; or, Great Cry and Little Meat.'" “But explain.”

Why the long and the short of it is, that the whole revenue tribe are in a rout about the remains of our breakfast; a bit of it was left upon the tablecloth, and came ashore perdue. See what it is to have linen and buck-baskets."

Off I dragged him to the scene of action, where we found the whole wittenagemote most gravely occupied with the affair; twenty times, at least, was the unfortunate bone taken up, turned round and round, and over and over, and weighed in the hand, and minutely inspected every possible way, in the midst of a serious discussion whether it should be seized as smuggled goods, or charged with the duty, and allowed to pass. A council of state could not have carried on its deliberation with a more important air. Had the whole been designed as a burlesque, it could not have been executed more capitally.

All this took place on a spot adjoining the Mole, where hundreds of people were passing; a great crowd gathered at the door, and listened and looked upon the proceeding with as much seriousness as the actors in the farce. We bore our share in it with all the mock gravity we could assume at so ludicrous a spectacle. At length the question having been fully discussed, was solemnly put to vote, and we were gratified with the intelligence that, in consideration of our character as strangers, it had been decided to allow the bacon-bone free ingress into the continental part of the king's dominions on payment of the customary dazio. This we agreed to, and a bill for the same was formally made out in the following style :IL SIGNORE

Dr.
To duty on salame

6 grains.
Stamp duty

2 Total

8 grains. This sum being paid, and the bill receipted and registered in due form, one of the officers immediately left the place in great haste; probably on an errand to the Minister of Finance, to inform him that eight grains, or threepence-halfpenny English, had gone into the Royal Exchequer. The others more deliberately twirled their mustachios, and turning on their heels, broke up the sitting. The sentinels faced to the right-about and marched off, the multitude dispersed, chacun se retira en sa chacuniere, and thus ended the grand council of the scrag of bacon.

Reader," as Hervey says, (vide Noll Goldsmith, anent the case of Mr. The. Cibber,)“ pause and ponder, and ponder and pause.” Contemplate the ills that pork-flesh is heir to; think on the vagaries of destiny, as exemplified in the fate of the disjecta membra of a Yankee squeaker! Sweet scion of a grunting race! did it ever enter thy piggish noddle to imagine, while nuzzling the green sod on the hills of Vermont, that a bit of thy hinder end would ever kick up such a dust at the Gran Dogana of his Majesty the King of the Two Sicilies ?

Q.Q.

THE CRIMES OF PRIZE-FIGHTERS.

ADDRESSED TO VISCOUNT DUNCANNON. It is, we trust, with a justifiable pride, and even laudable satisfaction, that we are able to congratulate the public upon the extensive benefits which the peace of the country has derived from our late exposures of that complication of all private robberies and public crimes which, to the disgrace of our magistracy, has been allowed to exist under the at once fraudulent and ridiculous term of stage or prize fighting. The Ring, as it is absurdly called, has been lately so prolific of manslaughter, of robberies, and of crimes which outrage nature, that great strength has been given to even those parts of our late articles which appeared to the uninitiated to be exaggerations beyond the verge of even possibility. The subject has been brought before Parliament by several eminent Members; it has engaged the attention of the Judges, and of the executive government; and in the next session an Act will be passed that will effectually suppress a system of crime and of violations of the laws which has led foreigners to consider us as an anomaly to all civilized nations.

It is at present our intention to illustrate our original exposure of this great nursery and school of felonies and offences of all sorts, by what has occurred in the Prize Ring since our number of the “New Monthly" for the month of May last; and the reader will see that the manner in which this corps of great and small criminals has set the laws at defiance often exposes the magistracy of the country in a most ridiculous, and often, we are sorry to say, in a by far worse than a ridiculous, point of view to the people.

Our readers may recollect that we exposed the fact, that what are pretended to be brutal exhibitions of savage and sanguinary, combats between hired ruffians are, in reality, nothing more nor less, in almost every instance, than mock fights, got up by black legs, flash-house keepers, and the swell mob, for the sake of plunder; and that the fighters in general are comprised of felons and criminals of every description, who either expiate their crimes by sentences of courts of law, or who, if more successful, terminate their career by keeping brothels, or houses for the resort of thieves—the highest point of a fighter's ambition. Finally, we added, that so far from prize-fighting engendering manly feelings, the pugilists, even the very best of them, were often men convicted of those crimes, and notorious for those habits which are peculiarly designated unmanly. Let us briefly show how far all these views have been lately confirmed in our criminal courts.

Let us commence with one of the very highest and best of our pugilists ---Abraham Belasco—who beat Cribb's redoubtable coalheaver; then beat the formidable Jos. Hudson; then Jack the butcher ;-was then defeated, after a most bloody battle, by the celebrated Tom Reynolds-(a cross, or sham fight)—was again beaten by the famous Jack Randall. He successively defeated a Gloucester champion, then Joe Townsend of Coventry; then the famous Phil. Sampson-and, in short, more of the ring succumbed to his science, strength, and brute courage, than we have space to record. Here we have one of the very greatest and best of the greatest, and the best of the heroes of the ring. This hero's brother, a pugilist, after an extensive career of crime, was at length convicted and transported for a robbery, and is now in New South Wales-par nobile fratrum. But this hero, Mr. Abraham, had had many warnings and hair-breadth escapes; no man had been had up before the magistrates so often as Abraham for assaults, extortions, and offences of a very heinous nature; for to his heroic and manly profession of a prize-fighter, he added the correlative vocations of a hired bully at brothels, à hired bully at hells and low

gambling-houses, and, lastly, he kept hells himself, and conjointly with his wife, he kept a brothel, both of the latter being of a far more atrocious or unmanly character than has often been heard of in this country.* The details of the trial and conviction of this cowardly ruffian and his wife have been so fully before the public, that it is unnecessary for us to repeat them here.

If in this case only one thing were proved, the compatibility of the most atrocious, cowardly, and unnatural offences and habits with great pugilistic skill, and all the finer qualities of the prize-ring, we should not have dwelt upon it, even to show that prize-fighting does not necessarily encourage manly feelings. The case might have been an exception to a general rule; but brothel-keepers among the fancy are numerous, and Belasco's habits were as notorious to the ring as the drop at Newgatehe associated with the pugilists, sparred at their benefits, appeared at their flash-houses, and was such a favourite amongst these manly characters, that, after his conviction, a gang of fighters actually had the impudence and audacity to attempt his rescue from the hands of justice.

Of a similar character with this, is the fact, that when a contemporary periodical (the United Service Journal' for January last) first exposed the character of the prize-ring, two actions were brought against it for a libel-the one by

- Spring, alias Winter, the ex-champion—(more of ex-champions presently)—and the other by Belasco's brother, for a mistake in his Christian name. We do not say par nobile fratrum, even with respect to one common trade between them-prize-fighting-for this would be unjust; but suffice it to say, that Belasco, the Jew, dropped his action for the Journal's making a mistake in his Christian name; and with

* A dreadful case of an old man's being rescued from murder, by a rush of the police and of the neighbours into the gambling-house from whence the cries proceeded, exposed in the newspapers the fact, that the house or hell was the property of Mr. Belasco, and that the ruffian, who had beaten the old man, was Belasco's hired bully.

† Some of the facts elicited at this horrible trial were truly heart-rending. It is the worst trial of the sort, perhaps, that ever took place in this country. How this horrible traffic was discovered was through a most affecting circumstance. One of the children had, for being drunk and disorderly, been committed to the House of Correction for three weeks, at the expiration of which period her sister went to the prison-gate to take her away. She found herself anticipated by Mrs. Belasco, who was in waiting there with a cab. The girl came out, and both parties claimed her. Words led to a quarrel-a scuffle ensued, the parties had to appear at Bow-street, where Mrs. Belasco was fined five pounds for the assault, the heaviest punishment the Magistrate could inflict.

Again :--They (the children) were residents under the paternal roof. What was the history of the fall of one of them? She was walking through Leg-alley, returning from an errand, when she was dragged by force into this house, and her person

- ; that was the disgusting fact. Even prize-fighting was an honourable pursuit compared to his filthy occupation. He had only one word more to add to this miserable detail:-The father of one of these children, on hearing of his daughter's infamy, wrought on by misery and pain, was seized with a brain fever, and his sufferings only ceased with his death.

There is something dreadfully demoniac in the following scene, described at the trial. “ Here were kept children of the most tender years : the wages of their sin-the money thus horribly obtained, these little girls were obliged to hand over to Mrs. Belasco-he gloried and boasted of this odious traffic. When Mrs. Gill, the unhappy mother of a child thus seduced, entered the brothel, and saw Belasco seated at the table with divers of these children, before whom a tankard of gin was placed, and when this woman, in the fulness of proper womanly feeling, vented her indig. nation at such a sight, he (Belasco) replied, Why we make our living out of them !"" We know not, in the annals of crime, dreadful as they are, any such a complication of the fiend, with the cruel, mean, cowardly, and unnatural essence of the miscreant. And this is one of the most eminent of the prize-ring!

« PreviousContinue »