Chairs to mend, old chairs to mend, Rush or cane bottomed chairs to mend, If I had the money that I could spend, I never would cry old chairs to mend, Rush or cane bottomed chairs to mend, chairs to mend old chairs to mend
Imagine London during Jane Austen’s time, a loud and brash city, filled with the stench of horse manure and sewage in the summer, and the smell of coal and wood smoke during the winter. Fog, thick as cotton, crept up from the Thames, snaking its tendrils and engulfing pedestrians and carriages alike. The rattle of wheels and horse’s hooves on cobblestones and the click click click of the pattens that protected a lady’s delicate slippers from mud were the ordinary sounds people were accustomed to. Above all this din, they could hear the cries of the street vendors.
Cries are phrases which, beginning in the 15th century, were called out in the streets by itinerant sellers of food and other commodities and by people offering their trades. They were especially prevalent in large towns and advertised for sale such diverse products and services as strawberries, fish, brooms, muffins, printed ballads and chimney sweeping. The criers were poor, and apparently loud and annoying. In 1711 Joseph Addison wrote an essay in The Spectator complaining of the noise at night and the loud, unpleasant manner in which the cries were uttered. “Milk” he writes “is generally sold in a note above high E, and in sounds so exceedingly shrill that it often sets our teeth an edge. (From Cries of London, see below).
Ripe Strawberries ripe, Ripe Strawberries ripe. Six-pence a pottle fine strawberries ripe strawberries…only six-pence a pottle… I have ripe Strawberries ripe, Ripe Strawberries ripe.
- The Death Rattle of the London Street Cries (A modern point of view)