“Of all the bucks in this buckish age,” The English Spy declares, “your London buck is the only true fellow of spirit; with him life never begins too early, or finishes too late.”
This is a very short excerpt from four London gentlemen’s nightlong journey. After hanging out with the racing fraternity, they’re working their way down to ever sleazier establishments. The authorities busted the last one, and our boys had a narrow escape. Nothing daunted, they continue their lark.
|Illustration by Robert Cruikshank|
~~~There is something very romantic in prowling the streets of the metropolis at midnight, in quest of adventure; at least, so my companions insisted, and I had embarked too deeply in the night's debauch to moralize upon its consequences. . .
"There is yet, however, one more place worthy of notice," said Crony; "not for any amusement we shall derive from its frequenters, but, simply, that it is the most notorious place in London." Thither it was agreed we should adjourn; for Crony's description . . . was quite sufficient to produce excitement in the young and ardent minds by which he was then surrounded. I shall not pollute this work by a repetition of the circumstances connected with this place, as detailed by old Crony, lest humanity should start back with horror and disgust at the bare mention, and charity endeavour to throw discredit on the true, but black recital. The specious pretence of selling shell-fish and oysters is a mere trap for the inexperienced, as every description of expensive wines, liqueurs, coffee, and costly suppers are in more general request, and the wanton extravagance exhibited within its vortex is enough to strike the uninitiated and the moralist with the most appalling sentiments of horror and dismay. Yet within this saloon (see plate) did we enter, at four o'clock in the morning, to view the depravity of human nature, and watch the operation of licentiousness upon the young and thoughtless.
A Newgate turnkey would, no doubt, recognize many old acquaintances; in the special hope of which, Bob Transit has faithfully delineated some of the most conspicuous characters, as they appeared on that occasion, lending their hearty assistance in the general scene of maddening uproar. It was past five o'clock in the morning ere we quitted this den of dreadful depravity, heartily tired out by the night's adventures, yet solacing ourselves with the reflection that we had seen much and suffered little either in respect to our purses or our persons.
—The English Spy, Part 2, 1825