I am continually committing High Treason. I make the statement unreservedly and without shame. I do not mean to say that Arabi Pasha is among the number of my correspondents, or that I am affiliated to the Fenian Brotherhood. The treason to the constant commission of which I own is in presuming to run counter to an universally adopted public opinion which has long since declared the four annually recurring Bank Holidays to be so many boons and blessings. I beg to state that I do not believe in "St. Lubbock"—as it is the gushing custom to dub the worthy Baronet, banker, and man of science, to whom we owe the law authorising the holding of our yearly Saturnalia—and that, on the whole, I believe the Bank Holiday to have become very much of the nature of a nuisance.
I have not the Act of Parliament before me; but I think that I am not far wrong in stating that the original intention in bringing in the measure associated with Sir John Lubbock's name was not to establish an additional general holiday, but to set apart four days a year when bankers' clerks—and bankers' clerks alone—should enjoy a well-earned surcease from toil. But the "feasts of St. Lubbock" have now been greedily seized upon by precisely those classes who have nothing whatever to do with banks or bankings; and the result has been the partial paralysis, four times a year, of the activity and industry of a city of four millions of souls.
I should not grumble if all the "toiling masses" had enjoyed a holiday last Monday. But did the clerks in the War Office have a holiday? Was it holiday-time with cabmen and omnibus and tramway-car drivers? Did workpeople employed on the river steamers, or in the dock, or on the wharves knock off work? Were the clerks, ticket-collectors, and porters at the various railway stations favoured with twenty-four hours leave of absence? Did the trains cease to run, or the engine-drivers, guards, and porters cease to labour? Finally, was last Monday a holiday for the barmen and barmaids at the innumerable public-housed and ginshops in and out of London, which swallowed up most part of the money of the "toiling masses" from the beginning to the end of the "festival," and which have possibly demoralised them during the greater part of the week just spent. My uncle the pawnbroker counts for a great deal in the history of a Bank Holiday.
A great deal of rubbish is written about these periodical orgies being the only occasions when the working man can get a peep at the green fields. The working man has every Sunday and half of every Saturday to himself; and large numbers of the better class of working men live out of London, and come up to town every morning by train.
As for the unfortunate members of the middle classes, London presents to them on every Bank Holiday the aspect of a city beleaguered by a hostile army. The post is half stopped; the newsboy declines to bring your evening papers; and it is with the extremest difficulty that, between Saturday and Tuesday, you can procure fresh fish or fresh vegetables. But the interests of the "toiling masses" must be alone consulted; and I have been guilty of course of high treason to their cause.
Driving on Monday evening from near the Foundling Hospital to Her Majesty's Theatre—a distance of about a mile and a half—I witnessed no less than three fights: one in Bloomsbury-street, one in High-street, and one in Dudley-street. In one of these pugilistic affrays the combatants were women.
Source: The Illustrated London News, No.2258—Vol. LXXXI, Saturday, August 12, 1882, p.159