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To close all, we say, as sick as a horse,” to express a great discharge by vomiting, whereas a horse never experiences that sort of sick
Notwithstanding the definition lies so remote, yet most interpreters seem to agree in the meaning of the word, that the term cockney is intended to express a person bred up and pampered in the city of London, and ignorant of the manners and ideas of all the rest of the world, which agrees with Dr. Skinner's description, (and coincides with other writers) that a cockney is, “ Vir urbanus, rerum rusticarum prorsus ignarus.” Dr. Hickes, indeed, carries the criterion to another point, collaterally not very foreign, when he says that the old French word cokayne implied, one who loved good eating and drinking, “ Gulæ et ventri deditus.” The glossarist to Chaucer,* however, goes abundantly too far in annexing any degree of derogation to the word, which he renders as expressive of very opprobrious qualities, such as rogue, knave, &c. terms which are never of necessity implied: for though many rascals may perhaps be cockneys, yet the converse will by no means hold good.t On the other hand, from the situation in which we find the word in written language (taken with the context) it applies merely to the fondled citizen, whose notions are confined within the walls of the metropolis. In Chaucer it imports no more than a silly fellow, devoid of wit or courage,
I shall be held a daffe, (i. e, a fool) or a cockney. The antiquity of the word may be carried up much higher; for Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, in the reign of King Stephen, had a strong castle at Bungay in Suffolk, which he held to be impregnable; and, when speaking of the wars between that king and the empress, whose partizan it is evident he was, he said,
“ Were I in my castle of Bungay,
“ I would not value the king of cockney."ll By cockney, I presume, the earl meant to express the whole city of London indiscriminately. The earl of Dorset, in his poems, uses the term to denote a native of the metropolis. Shakspeare, in one passage, seems to contrast the idea of a cockney's cowardice with a swaggering braggadocio, where, in Twelfth-night, the clown says, “I am afraid this great lubber the world will prove a “cockney."*
* Urry's Edition.
| It seems very odd at this day to suppose that any man born in London should never have been in the country; but we must take the state of the roads in former times, and various other things, into the consideration :---but the term cockney, itself, is now pretty well worn out.
Ø The Reeve's Prologue, line 1100.
In another place he paints the party in bolder colours, and in exact conformity with the received opinion. The words are from che tragedy of King Lear. In an agony of despair, the king exclaims,
“Oh me, my heart, my rising heart !—but down !" to which the fool replies,
Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the cels, when she put them into the pasty alive :-she rapped them o'th' coxcombs with a stick, and cried, down, wantons, down! It was her brother that, in pure kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.”+
Eels being always sold alive, the ignorant maid, who we are to presume had not dressed any of them before, never thought of killing them; but treated them as rebellious creatures, wondering that they did not submit themseves as quietly as other fish, which came dead to her hands. The above-cited instances point strongly at the
rerum rusticarum ignarus :" and as to the “ buttering the hay," it is no bad sympathetic type of them"gulæ et ventri deditus."
Thus much for traits of our own cockneys; and, as I have hinted at those of Paris, I give you the following specimen of French cockneyship, (Badauderie) from Mr. Menage. A Parisian, who could not swim, bathing in the Seine, got out of his depth, and would have been inevitably drowned, had not some swimmers been at hand to save him. On recovering, he protested that he would never venture into the water again till he had learned to swim.I
Upon the whole, Sir, the term cockney, being one of those inexplicable words which has puzzled the greatest glossarists, I may well be excused from any investigation, with observing that the established criterion of this class of people (as to the natale solum) is the having been born within the sound of Bow bell; that being taken, I presume, as the most central point of the ancient city of London, within the walls. In support of this test, the fantastic and aspiring
• Act IV. Sc. 1.
+ Act II. Sc. 10.
| Menagiana, Vol. III. p. 114. Edit. Amst. 1716. One would have thought tha: the scene must have lain on the banks of the Liffy.
daughter of honest Touchstone (the goldsmith of Cheapside) in the comedy of “ Eastward Hoe !” (printed 1605) says, in contempt of her birth, family, and at the horrid thought of being a cockney, that she used—“to stop her ears at the sound of Bow bell."*
For the honour of the cockneys be it remembered, that in the Christmas feasts, which were formerly held with so much foolish expence at our inns of court, the king of cockneys (an imaginary lordmayor of London, chosen from their own community) was entertained with extraordinary respectability, of which we have a full account in Dugdale's “ Origines Juridiciales :"--for in the ninth year of king Henry VIII. it was ordered that “the king of cockneys should sit, and have due service; and that He, and his marshal, butler, and constable-marshal, should have their lawful and honest commandments, by the delivery of the officers of Christmas.”+
After all that has been said, Sir, let us not be unmindful of some real and substantial benefits which have arisen to society from this order of citizens in particular, who have thus innocently fallen into such unmerited contempt. At the time when Mr. Strype published an enlarged edition of Stowe's Survey of London and Westminster, there was an annual feast held at Stepney, expressly called “the cockney's feast," on which day a contribution was made, either at church or at dinner, (or at both) with which the parish children were apprenticed. Mr. Strype (who was himself a cockney) adds, that he had more than once preached before the society on the occasion.ş Mr. Lysons says, that the principal purpose of the society was the apprenticing poor children to the sea service ; and that the institution was patronized by several persons of distinction, among which, he adds, that the Duke of Montagu and admiral Sir Charles Wager, were the stewards for the year 1734.// It gave place, at length, to a more general institution, “ The Marine Society.” established 1756. So long as the primary fraternity lasted, a secondary effect was produced, as it certainly tended to keep up the breed of true and genuine cockneys, and thereby operated toward the preservation of the purity of the English language, as will appear from the circumstance and examples which follow.
* Act V. ad calcem. See Old Plays, Vol. IV, 2nd Edit. + P. 247. Some of these childish feasts cost the Prince, as he was called, 20001. I A. D. 1720,
First Appendix to Strype's Stowe, p. 101. || Environs of London, Vol. III. p.408,
Having said thus much, Sir, to no purpose, I will have the boldness to throw out one word of comfort, that seems to point at the sembance of an etymon, and will risque a conjecture, which, as far as I know, has not been hazarded before. The French have an old appropriated verb (not to be met with in the modern dictionaries—but you will find it in Cotgrave) viz.“ Coqueliner un enfant," to fondle and pamper a child. The participle passive of this verb will therefore be “ coqueline,” which by no great violence may, I think, be reduced to “ coquené ;" for, in pronunciation, the penultimate syllable (li) will easily melt in the mouth, and accord, in our spelling, with the word cockney.*
Thus I have brought together every thing material that I can find relative to the term in question :-nor had I urged so much, but that I felt myself amenable to you for something on the subject—and here I leave it.
SKETCH OF THE BRITISH METROPOLIS.
London, the mart of Europe, and the emporium of the globe, now stands unrivalled as the friend of every production worthy of its patronage, in art or in nature; metals and precious stones; corn and wine; each article of merchandize that is most valuable in its kind, or serviceable in its intended uses, are deposited in the warehouses of this vast city: vast in extent, in population, and in riches. Near 200,000 houses, affording habitations to a million of human beings, are collected on a space which ages since was crowned with forests, and inhabited by beasts of prey: where the stupendous fabric now whelms its head in the hanging clouds, was, in times past by, a sterile plain, on which the noxious weed perchance might blossom, and ripen into full-blown growth.
The noble Thames which laves the shores of this our much-loved city, each tide that purges it of its dregs, buoys on its spacious bosom unnumbered vessels, laden with unnumbered riches : cach flowing tide receives into its arms the ships of foreign states, freighted with the wealth of the universe. It is a cheering sight to see so many barks riding in safety, within the precincts of a city, for there it shews that commerce bears the sway.
Barat, in his Alvearie, says, that a child which sucks long, used to be called "a cockney, after St. Augustine,” meaning the well-known doctor of the church.
The internal structure of this grand edifice should have been first noticed, but the Thames is proved to be so necessary to our welfare and prosperity, that it claimed a prior right to attention.
First, visit the houses which contain the nobles and the representatives of the people : hear their orations on the state of things, and if
you doubt the prosperity of the country, let their decision on the resources of the government fix your opinion. View the edifices which adorn a capital, and raise ideas of the people's wealth. Behold the thousands engaged in business, till each one's daily toils are over. See the numberless equipages which crowd the streets and squares, and proclaim the opulence of this city. Go mix with the Inerchants on the exchange, and hear the wcalth of kingdoms bartered in a few minutes. View the inhabitants of every clime, in earnest converse with the British merchant, whose honour and integrity are as a bond in the consideration of other men. Inspect the receptacles for the poor and the distressed, for the afflicted and helpless, for honourable age and widowed offsprings : then go visit foreign states, and form an honourable comparison in favour of the benevolence and fellow-feeling of Englishmen.
If taxes are levied for the general safety of the people, and though the people complain (and it is seldom that all are contented) no symptoms of poverty are discerned; commerce continues the same, and inland traffic meets with no repulsé : they do not stem the torrent of patriotism which fows around the much-loved king of the British isles, when he appears among his people ;-long may he live to see the prosperity of the land, to promote the happiness of his subjects.
The myriads which now stand forward in defence of their rights, their laws, and liberty, declare that they are conscious of the worth of those jewels in a patriot's crown, by which they have sworn to conquer or to die. The Almighty God, we trust, has heard our prayers, and those of our wives and children; and when the hour of trial comes, he will yield us power to stop the encroachments of malice and destruction, and overwhelm with despair and shame those who
may possess sufficient temerity to invade our country, and endeavour to deprive the Briton of his rights.