NOTES ON ISSUE 2: HISTORICAL GLOSSARY
PART 1 OF 4
name of the public-house was the Pegasus's Arms. The Pegasus's
legs might have been more to the purpose, but, underneath the
winged horse upon the signboard, THE PEGASUS'S ARMS was inscribed
in Roman letters.
Pegasus, a winged horse in Greek mythology,
was often associated with the circus; circus performers sometimes
gave the name to their horses, and the Royal Circus in London
(opened in 1782) placed a statue of Pegasus on its roof.
Using pictures on signs to identify pubs was common practice
in England, where taverns tended to have their own symbols.
The description of the Pegasus's Arms may owe something to Dickens's
observations of an old pub in Preston, where he traveled during
that town's 1853-4 strike. This photograph of an old pub in
the industrial north of England—the Seven Stars in Manchester—was
taken about 20 years after the publication of Hard Times.
It is reproduced from Manchester As It Is (1878), a photographic
work that intended to illustrate the modern improvements that
had taken place in Manchester in the mid- to late nineteenth
century, in an attempt to dispel its reputation as an industrial
hell. The author and photographer, Alfred Brothers, included
some pictures of older areas that had not been reconstructed
or renovated to provide a contrast with the "new"
Manchester, such as this tavern.
have gone down to the booth, sir."
By "to the booth" here, Sissy means to the circus.
He was dressed in a Newmarket coat…
A Newmarket coat was a long, fitted coat
with tails, used for riding and named for the Newmarket racecourse.
It was the precursor of the morning coat.
white bismuth and carmine
Cosmetics used in the circus. Bismuth is a white metal; carmine
is a red pigment that comes from cochineal.
"You see, my friend," Mr. Bounderby put in, "we
are the kind of people who know the value of time, and you are
the kind of people who don't know the value of time."
Using time appropriately, and knowing its value, was a central
tenet not only of Victorian middle-class culture but also of
the manufacturing economy of which Bounderby is a part. Life
and work in factory towns was ruled by the factory clock. For
the middle and mercantile classes, wasting time in idleness
or amusement was considered almost sinful.
"What does he come here cheeking us for, then?…If you
want to cheek us, pay your ochre at the doors and take it out."
To "cheek" was to speak impertinently or offensively
to someone. Ochre is slang for money, in reference to its golden
"…Jupe has missed his tip very often lately."…
"Offered at the garters four times last night, and never
done ‘em once," said Master Kidderminster. "Missed
his tip at the banners, too, and was loose in his ponging."
The garters and banners were bands and cloths that a performer
jumped across; Jupe, in "missing his tip," has failed
to do so. To be "loose in his ponging" could mean
specifically that his tumbling was poor (as is stated by Childers
in the passage that follows), or it could mean that his entire
performance was bad.
Dickens wrote to friends as he embarked on Hard Times,
asking for examples of circus slang to use in the book. Note
that he is careful to define his most important terms for the
middle-class reader, so that they are either clear from context
or defined and interpreted for Bounderby and Gradgrind.
"He was goosed last night…"
That is, he was hissed by the audience.
"He has his points as a cackler still, but he can't
get a living out of them."
A cackler was a performer who took only speaking parts. It was
indeed difficult to earn a living as a cackler; circus entertainment
relied on amusing physical performances more than speeches.