Posts Tagged ‘The Enraged Musician’

Vendors of fruit and flowers, of milk and muffins are not agreeable visitors when they roar for a living, and the poor organ-grinder little knows, let us hope, the anguish he inflicts upon sensitive nerves. – Street Noises, The Illustrated London News, 1882

the musicianWilliam Hogarth’s famous 1741 etched engraving of ” The Enraged Musician” visually described the cacophony of sounds heard all over the city of London: the shouts of vendors, clattering of wagon wheels and clopping of horses’ hooves, impromptu concerts from street musicians, clackety-clack of ladies’ pattens (which protected delicate shoes from mud), and the clapping of hooves and bleeting of animals as drovers guided them to Smithfield Market. Laws were enacted to control these noises, but the change did not occur overnight, nor did these laws completely eliminate all irritating sounds for city dwellers. In 1841, 100 years after Hogarth engraved his famous scene, Charles Knight described London’s noises (London, Vol 1, Charles Knight, 1841):

Enraged_musician William Hogarth

In this extraordinary gathering together of the producers of the most discordant sounds we have a representation which may fairly match the dramatist’s description of street noises …

street musician and vendor

Here we have the milk maid’s scream, the mackerel seller’s shout, the sweep upon the house top, to match the fish wives and orange women; the broom men and costar mongers …

chimney boy

The smith, who was ominous, had no longer his forge in the busy streets of Hogarth’s time, the armourer was obsolete, but Hogarth can rival their noises with the pavior’s hammer, the sow gelder’s horn, and the knife grinder’s wheel…

drummer and knife sharperner

The waits of the city had a pension not to come near Morose’s ward, but it was out of the power of the Enraged Musician to avert the terrible discord of the blind hautboy player.

Bellman, Book of Days

The bellman who frightened the sleepers at midnight was extinct, but modern London had acquired the dustman’s bell. The bear-ward no longer came down the street with the dogs of four parishes, nor did the fencer march with a drum to his prize …

Hogarth, Bear-Ward, Bear and Monkey

…but there was the ballad singer with her squalling child, roaring worse than bear or dog, and the drum of the little boy playing at soldiers was a more abiding nuisance than the fencer Morose, and the Enraged Musician had each the church bells to fill up the measure of discord…

crying baby

In our own days there has been legislation for the benefit of tender ears, and there are now penalties with police constables to enforce them against all persons blowing any horn or using any other noisy instrument for the purpose of calling persons together, or of announcing any show or entertainment, or for the purpose of hawking selling distributing, or collecting any article or of obtaining money or alms…

bell horn and shouts

These are the words of the Police Act of 1839, and they are stringent enough to have banished from our streets all those uncommon noises, which did something to relieve the monotony of the one endless roar of the tread of feet and the rush of wheels…

peeing in the road

The street noise now is deafening when we are in the midst of it, but in some secluded place, such as Lincoln’s Inn Gardens, it is the ever present sullen sound of angry waves dashing upon the shingles. The horn that proclaimed extraordinary news running to and fro among peaceful squares and secluded courts was sometimes a relief…

hornmen great news

The bell of the dustman was not altogether unpleasant. In the twilight hour, when the shutters were not yet closed and the candles were not yet burnin,g the tinkle of the muffin man had something in it very soothing…

muffin man 1841

It is gone, but the legislators have still left us our street music…

street music 1789

There was talk of its abolition, but they have satisfied themselves with enacting that musicians on being warned to depart from the neighbourhood of the house of any householder by the occupier, or his servant, or by a police constable, incur a penalty of forty shillings by refusal. De la Serre, who came to England with Mary de Medici when she visited the Queen of Charles I, is enthusiastic in his praises of the street music of London In all public places … – London, Vol 1, Charles Knight, 1841

Addendum: Compared to the noises of the City, the West End’s new neighborhoods were comparatively quiet.

buy a broom 1881 cries of london

An interesting aside: To add insult to injury, one closeup of Hogarth’s etching shows a young boy relieving himself in the middle of the street. The sour smells of London added greatly to the din as well.

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