Christmas spirit a-plenty!

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A bit of a rum do at the New Sloperies yester-eve. Me new patron, Genial John Nash, came home to find your humble narrator in his cups after discovering several bottles of the unsweetened what was laid down for the coming festivities. The aforementioned patron found he was decidedly lacking in Christmas spirit until he remembered the extra bottles he had put aside for just such an eventuality.

Happy Christmas, one and all, from the New Sloperies!

(The attached photographs are by courtesy of me new likeness-capturer, Ms. Webster).

x-img_8530a-copyx-img_8529a-copyAlly Sloper Christmasx-img_8532a-copy

Pick a card, any card . . . no, not that one.

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Certain items have always had a way of falling into my possession, by fair means or foul. Mostly foul, it may be said by those cruel-hearted critics among you, but, as the bard himself said in The Scottish Play “Fair is foul, foul is fair” and, being the eminent Litterateur that I am, I am wont to abide by those laws what he put down with his foul quill rather than those laws what are laid down by the Beak.

So, what particular item is it that has fallen into my possession recently that has me Philosophising today? It is none other than this here card game which came spewing out of some popular press or other back in the good old days when your humble narrator was in his prime.

Now, my current patron has warned me off of writing about this particular set of Sloper memorabilia, reckoning that the pictures therein may not be well suited to the sensibilities of these modern times what we live in now. He says that there are those, even in these enlightened times, that make an habit of taking offense, even when none is meant. If there are any poor souls out there who are like to take offence or upset at the following pictures then please do feel at liberty to quell your good souls, perhaps by making a generous donation to Sloper’s Caring Association for Milksoppery (or the S.C.A.M, if you will), all moneys to be forwarded to the usual address.

So what of these cards then? Well, they comprise of four suits, as would your usual deck that you might have a game of cribbage with; but that is where any similarity ends. The first suit bears the likenesses of the Sloper clan, as seen in me Half Holiday days, with A. Sloper Esq. taking the number one spot, as is should be. Following along on my somewhat ragged tails comes Mrs. Sloper, Tootsie, Alexandry, Evelina, the Twins, Lord Bob, Hon. Billy, Dook Snook, McGoosely, and me old dog Snatcher.

Ally Sloper Card Game

So far, so good. We know where we are. All is well. We then come to the other suits.

Next up we have all the usual Sloper family and friends, including yours truly, but in the form of foreign sorts.

We have Chinese:

Ally Sloper Card Game

We have African:

Ally Sloper Card Game

 

And we have Egyptian:

Ally Sloper Card Game

Now then, being from the era from what I am from, that being what is now known as Victorian, I am quite used to this sort of characterisation of them what are not English; the powers that be were happy to force those images upon us. Even me dear old Judy who ran the periodical that made my name before the Half-Holiday came along regularly ran lampoons on the current affairs of the day, which usually involved these lowly foreign sorts up against the stout, stiff-upper lipped, Englishman. Just have a look at these:

Judy, London Serio-Comic Journal, 1879, Victorian Satire, Racism

Judy, London Serio-Comic Journal, 1879, Victorian Satire, Racism

Judy, London Serio-Comic Journal, 1879, Victorian Satire, Racism

But, and here’s the thing, whatever them in charge liked to try and make us think, we were all lumped together ‘cheek by jowl‘ in those dark streets of Whitechapel and, in truth, there was no particular hatred among us. Well, no more than usual anyway. Tempers were wont to fray in that powder-keg but any Englishman was just as likely to turn against an Englishman as any other piece of flotsam that washed up from The Thames. And, I myself, would be just as likely to dip the pocket of a foreigner as that of a true born Englishman, for I am not proud. No, them same people that kept the foreign sorts down were the self-same people that kept the likes of us down too. Yes, those pictures of Africans may be somewhat crass, disrespectful even; but, I ask you to look at those pictures of me and my family in true English toggery. Are they any less crass and disrespectful? Am I not as much a victim of falsehoods and lampoonery as the next man of the lower classes, wherever he may have been born?

Course, like most of the fancy-goods what were manufactured bearing the Sloper moniker, these cards fair rolled off the shelves. But, did your Sloper see a brass farthing of them profits? No he did not. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask of you, was them what portrayed me as thief not thieves themselves? What is worse? The poor man bending the rules of common decency to scratch out a living to feed his family, and to have a little over to keep him in his cups as is natural; or the rich man preying on that poor man’s good name to fill his own coffers? I ask you Ladies and Gentleman, which is the foulest, which is the fairest?

Ally Sloper Card Game

Never walk when you can ride.

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I will admit that, having sprung from my dear old mother nearing 200 years ago, I am an aged old cove now. I am approaching the well-seasoned nature, if not the venerability, of old Methuselah his self. Some may put this long-livedness down to stubbornness, after all, after a life lived as mine, I am in no particular hurry to see what is waiting for me on the other side. Others may put it down to me being well-pickled, and there would be some truth, if not cruelness, to this comment as I was no stranger to the bottle and the old Whitechapel air had a habit of sticking to the skin and did marvelous at keeping the illness out.

Whatever the reason for this preservation of mine, it does mean that in my current state of decrepitude, me old pins are not what they were (not that they ever were anything to write home about, even in youth they were like two sticks of forced rhubarb); and it is because of this that my current patrons came home with this modern contraption for me.

In truth, I have had the occasion in the past where I have felt the need for a conveyance and for a friendly soul to convey me, but all we had back then was the Bath chair which, although, very comfortable, was not the most manoeuvrable of devices.

Ally Sloper's Half Holiday Bath Chair

But this one what I have now, although perhaps lacking in style and comfort, and being a threadbare and tatty old thing (although my current patrons promise me that they will be giving it a spruce-up for me), it does the job admirably. As I said, it is quite a modern contrivance, having come fresh from the manufactory in the 1930s. The stretched canvas seat laces at the back of the chair and I very much like this as it brings to mind the old Mrs Sloper, as she was, with her corsetry at strain after an over-indulgence of the Bass Ale of which she was fond of partaking in.

Ally Sloper's Vintage Wheelchair

It also has a shelf at the back which suffices for storing your Topper and hanging your brolly and is most convenient as I wouldn’t like to impose on the poor soul what has to push me by insisting they carry these accoutrements, as they will need a free hand or two to bring along the liquid refreshments; perambulating being such thirsty work for the perambulater and the perambulatee both.

Ally Sloper Wheelchair Hat and Umbrella

My patrons have assured me that this device will bring about a manner of freedom for me and, rather than being house-bound as I was, I may now be able to take the air. Perhaps I can think of a way to convince them that it would be in their interest to let me experience the sea-air, something I was fond of on my Half-Holidays.

Ally Sloper Vintage Wheelchair

Sloper’s Declaration of Independence

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Now then, you may notice that banner across the top of this journal of mine, the one which proclaims ‘Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday’. This same banner was the one that festooned the humorous periodical featuring your humble servant which was run by my second patron Gilbert Dalziel. You can see that I have struck out that name and scrawled my own moniker alongside, this being a stand I have taken to declare that I am now my own man and I will have no other putting words in my mouth.

For I was used as a mouthpiece, Ladies and Gentlemen. My masters stuffed my mouth so full of words I could have choked on ‘em on occasion. Having said that, the wage I was paid was just and fair and it does have to be said that I moved upward in society at a fair pace on the back of those political machinations.

But, when all was said and done, I was nothing more than a puppet much of the time and those in charge, being full aware of my popularity amongst the lower classes, would use my voice, it being the whitest of Whitechapel voices, as a Clarion Call to those without to do the bidding of those with.

Just look at some of the get up they got me up in, here is your Sloper resplendent in his Pith and Puttees waving the good old flag like any true Englishman. But should I be held to account if any man was fool enough to fall for such a deceit?

ally pith helmet

In truth, I never was a one for the politics. I could never affiliate myself with any particular faction of the establishment, beings as no particular faction of the establishment ever tried to affiliate itself with me.

No, I was always what you might call an Independent Thinker. I was wont to follow my own merry path through life, it may be said that it was a crooked, twisted and bent path and I would not argue with that, after all, a straight path may be easier to follow but you will reach the end in a much hastier fashion.

With all this talk of politics I find my mind returns to when I was Young Sloper. 1848 it was, a time when the streets were a-buzz with the sound of unrest. It seemed that all through Europe the lowest of society were standing against their masters in uprising. Unseasonal weather had caused crops to fail and what with those in higher positions having their fill first, there was not enough scraps left over to throw to the lowest.

And if you empty the belly of a peasant a fire will soon fill it.

At the same time there was a rise in the popular press spreading political affairs far and wide and a surge in pamphleteers giving a voice to those that did not have one previous, mix these things with an austere existence and the whisper of revolution soon appears.

This uprising blazed its course across The Continent, no country was untouched by the impassioned peasantry that wanted to break from the established rule of law.

Course, the whole affair was orchestrated by those middle-classes what wanted a bigger slice of the pie than they was already receiving and they was agitating the poor to use as their battering ram.

But, such is life. In truth the middle classes will always think the lower classes should be revolting.

And just to lighten the mood after all this talk of violence and upheaval, I do still own my old Pith but I shall not be donning it in deference to the Establishment again. If I do wear it, which I may well see fit to do in warmer climes, then I shall wear it as a free man and this shall be my salute.

Ally Sloper's Pith Helmet

Being the first part of a brief narrative on the history of A. Sloper.

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For those of you unacquainted with my history and adventures, even though they were diligently documented in the periodicals of the day, every detail of my life laid bare for the consuming public to scoff and wonder at regularly and over a period of some 49 years; even though you managed to miss that and are still not familiar with the moniker of my humble self I will forgive you that and I will herewith give a brief narrative on my history.

I cannot give the date or even the year of my birth with any certainty, though it did fall, with some approximation, at the crux of the Georges and Victoria. It is my belief that this happy event favoured the Georgian end of the timeline due to my moral outlook on life, or lack of such. As a member of what the toffs call the ‘undeserving poor’ I will say that before Victoria took to the throne the poor was as a one, the poor was poor; but with the onset of what they call middle class morality there was those poor what was deserving and those poor what was not. And A. Sloper, through no fault of his own, other than taking a pleasure in his life, was cast down into the latter camp. So, when a cove spies his neighbours getting given a little of something for nothing then “Hullo”, he thinks to his self, “why should not I get a little something for nothing too”. And if that little something is not forthcoming then why should that cove not seek out that little something for his self by the guile and wits that God, if not the middle classes, gave to him?

And do not talk to me of the deserving poor being hardworking thus worthy of charity. Let me tell you that a life lived in a less that honest manner is far harder work than is known by any costermonger, docker or sweep.

Though I was unfortunate enough to be born into the lowest of classes I have always been of the opinion that I was of an aristocratic heritage. Growing to a height of well above the average I carried myself with what I liked to think of as a noble demeanour and the name I carried, which was the only gift I was presented with for many a year, of Alexander, suggested a grandeur that raised me above that rat-hole of Whitechapel to which I was born. To lend a credence to that aristocratic lineage that I proclaimed, I bedecked myself in the finest toggery I could lay my two hands upon. In truth, most of that finery was no longer what you might call fine, the tails were tattered and the topper I was famed for was battered, but these things sufficed.

Ally Sloper, Judy London Serio-Comic Journal, Marie Duval

The sobriquet of ‘Ally’, being a shortened form of Alexander, did not arise until my meetings with my first patron, Charles H. Ross. But we will come to that later into this brief history that I humbly narrate.

As I have already here stated, I made my money by less than honest means but there was rarely any violence in my financial endeavours. I say ‘rarely’ because although I may not have initiated any violence (my physical constitution was never conducive to the life of a bludger, brawler or bruiser), there were those that took great offense at my attempts at getting by in this cruel world and sadly felt the need to reward my endeavours by resorting to a violent assault upon my person. What a grave world we live in when even the finest of philanthropists will take so quick to savage behaviour when another man’s hand is found in his pocket. These were the drawbacks of being a pilferer and a dipper. There was fast readies to be had but it was a crude way for a cove to conduct his self, although, as the righteous of the day proclaimed pride to be a sin, I did stoop to help myself as the occasion arose as I would not like to be looked down upon by such goodly Christian reformers. And such was my notoriety as a dipper of pocket watches that there was a humorous observation what was passed around in society:

Sloper says that his watch goes well.”

“Well it seems the previous owner thought it went mysteriously.

Being, in truth, a kindly sort, I always preferred the manner whereby I would ‘persuade’ a gent to hand over his belongings to me willingly. Although living the life of a sharp was indeed an altogether more time consuming affair it did allow the possibility of a far greater financial reward and a swindle was a far more gentlemanly way to conduct business, allowing the other party a fair chance to escape the felon’s nefarious advances. A battle of wits, you may say.

Course a swindle, being a more complex affair than a meagre dip, will often require a second party, an accomplice, and the body I chose for this was a friend since childhood by the name of Isaac Moses, or Iky Mo as he was wont to be called, a Jewish brother from The Chapel. In such a fine endeavour as a swindle it was important to have a trustworthy friend to help keep the bluebottles from buzzing around and although Iky was, in truth, less trustworthy than a rat in a cheesemongery and he was never what you would call a friend to any man, he was the best I could get. We were on poor terms much of the time but we did manage to successfully divert the income of many a gent into our own pockets.

Here is a portrait of Iky Mo as captured in all of his swagger during our jaunt to the Paris Exhibition by our then illustrator, Marie Duval:

Isaac Moses, Iky Mo, at the Paris Exhibition with Ally Sloper

It was on one of my ventures with Iky that I met that first patron I mentioned, Charles H. Ross. We had gone up to Fleet Street with a plan to fleece one of the hackers that frequented that place and we had fell to imbibing too much at The Cheshire Cheese . . .

. . . but that shall be another story for another day as this talk of drinking establishments creates a terrible thirst and, as I am not recounting this history in an actual public house and, as such, am unable to pass this hat of mine around, then I will have to see if my current patrons have any of that fine gin left that, for some strange reason known only to themselves, they keep hidden away at the back of the scullery.

Ally Sloper Gin

A toast to new beginnings.

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Being decollated and having your tuppeny boxed and packaged away for the best part of a century gives a body, if you’ll pardon the pun, a time to reflect. If truth be told, I’m sure I have forgotten more of my life and history than I am able to recollect; although, I was no stranger to the bottle and a surfeit of gin is wont to pull a gauze over the past, clouding history as well as judgement, some may say.

My current patrons, those that have given me lodgings in this new bout at life I have been granted (all gratis, which is fair, decent and very satisfactory), have been poking and prodding away inside my noggin with all manner of keepsakes and mementos. Being a gent what had a certain amount of fame in his heyday, or infamy as some would have it, there are plenty of those reminders to be had, including my own writings as I was quite the Littérateur in my day.

And so we have it, my patrons have devised this way for me to expound upon my life as I see fit. It seems that all I have need to do is write my words using this paperless typewriter they have loaned to me (and a right flimsy thing it is, manufactured from some sort of Vulcanite it seems, which I think will hardly withstand my assaults upon it) and my words and wisdom will be for all the world to cast a view, and an opinion, upon.

Of course, the world I come from, 19th century London, particular to Whitechapel and its surrounding environs, is a very different world to that what you inhabit today. Mine was a dark world filled with fear. Poverty and hunger was clawing at the doors of us of the lower classes. What you might call a Terror Incognita! We were all crammed together along with those new to our country, those fleeing persecution from those that wished them harm in the Eastern lands. The accord what they called The Concert of Europe, arranged and conducted by those of a Teutonic persuasion, was becoming disharmonised and all the leaders of those varying nations of Europe were stringing each other along, banging their drums and sounding the bugles of war. Course, we in Britain, always danced to our own tune and often refused the invitations to the recitals of that particular orchestra.

But, in this new and enlightened age that I have awoken in, I will not bore you with the problems served up cold to the likes of you and I by the politicians of past days. I am sure that all those petty differences were resolved long ago.

So I will raise a glass of this very satisfactory gin that my new patrons are keeping my springs lubricated with and toast you all in this bright new world of peace and prosperity. Let us see what mischief we can make of it.

Ally Sloper. Cheers!

An Introduction from Sloper’s New Patron

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So, where do I start?

My name is John C. Nash and for my birthday last year in May 2015 my wife, Samantha Webster, presented me with a large cardboard box. On opening this box I encountered a head. Here’s a photo, as taken on the day:

Ally Sloper Head in a Box

 

Samantha is wont to buying me the strangest of presents but she really outdid herself with an antique lifesize ventriloquist dummy head of Ally Sloper.

It seemed a shame to leave this head without a body so the next day we began a project to make this poor old fellow complete again by creating him a body and togging him out as would befit him and, after several months, he seems to be quite happy with our work.

Who is Ally Sloper, you say? You may well ask. Ally Sloper was a Victorian comic book character; the very first recurring comic book character, in fact. A Whitechapel born cockney schemer. Created by Charles H. Ross, he first appeared in a publication called “Judy: or The London Serio-Comic Journal” in 1867. The strips were first drawn by Ross and later by his wife Marie Duval.

Such was Sloper’s popularity with the general public that in 1884 he was given his very own publication, “Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday” which ran until 1916. You can’t really exaggerate just how popular Sloper was at that time; he was, as we would term it today, a superstar. As well as the weekly magazine, his phizog appeared on all manner of merchandise, from pipes to pocket watches, and sauce bottles to door stops. Sloper was everywhere, he even starred in a few moving pictures. Strange then that, despite a few attempts in the 20th century to revive him, his fame has waned and few today have heard his name.

So, back to the real Ally Sloper. The one Samantha and I brought back to life with our own hands. The one we now have to put up with because he won’t leave. The one we now have as an unpaying lodger who sits in the corner of the living room making comments about every single thing we choose to do. Well, it seems he wants to let the world know he’s back. I’ve told him about these computers we have now (or, the Vulcanite Typewriter, as he terms it) and, although I don’t think he quite fully grasps the concept (a bit like telegraphy?) I’ve told him that he can put his thoughts out there to the world.

So, that’s me done. The rest of the blog is Sloper’s. He’s out in the world again.

God help us all.

Ally Sloper at Home

(photo courtesy of Samantha Webster)