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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1858, Sunday, November 13, 1831

Italian Boys

The following curious particulars connected with this tribe of travelling mendicants, and their mode of living, will, we have no doubt, prove interesting to our readers. The haunts of these unfortunate beings are in Vine street, Saffron hill, Bleeding heart yard, Holborn hill, Coal yard, in Drury lane; and in the purlieus of Shoreditch. Whole houses are inhabited by these wretched boys, who sleep eight and nine in a bed; each boy's monkey is chained near him every night on going to rest, and the other curiosities are placed in situations appointed to the owner, so that on starting out in the morning each boy takes his own companion. On the ground floors reside the men, some Italian and some English, to whom the monkeys, &c. really belong, and they provide each boy with lodging at four-pence a-night, with a basin of gruel in the morning, upon starting upon their peregrinations, having first paid the master for the use of whatever curiosity they may take with them to exhibit. The following are the charges made by the proprietors upon the juvenile crew:—

For a porcupine (very novel, there being only two), and an organ, 4s. per day; being 2s. 6d. for the porcupine, and 1s. 6d. for the organ. For a monkey undressed, 2s. per day. For a monkey in uniform, 3d. per day. For a box of white mice, 1s. 6d. per day. For a tortoise, 1s. 6d. per day. For a dog and monkey (the latter may be frequently seen in the street riding on the dog's back), 3s. per day. For dancing dogs, four in number, including dresses, spinning-wheel, pipe and tabor, &c. 5s. per day. For a box of wax figures of the Siamese twins, 2s. per day. For an organ, with figures waltzing 3s. 6d. per day.

Some of these boys, by their artlessness of manner and gesticulations, it is said, obtain six or seven schillings a day, and some more. One of them the other day, upon being asked what was the largest sum he ever received in one day, replied fifteen schillings, which he accounted for in the following manner. One day he was ambulating about the Marine Parade at Brighton, with his dog, and monkey on his back, when a gentleman offered him fifteen schillings to allow him to throw a stone into the sea, for the dog to fetch. The boy consented, the stone was thrown, and away jumped the dog with the monkey into the sea. The monkey fastened tight around the dog's neck, and both reaching the beach in safety, the boy received his premium.