Sketches by Boz


Description of a bar-maid at a gin-shop trying to avoid eye-contact with a flirtatious customer.

The Charles Dickens sketch, Gin-Shops first appeared in The Evening Chronicle on Saturday, 7 February 1835. The sketch starts by describing the growth of the ‘gin-palaces’, ornate gin shops that grew in huge numbers from the late 1820’s. Dickens then goes on to describe one such establishment in the St. Giles area of London.

Gin Shops
Image from the original publication of Gin Shops which appeared in February 1835.


Taken from the following passage in the sketch Gin Shops:

The two old washerwomen, who are seated on the little bench to the left of the bar, are rather overcome by the head-dresses and haughty demeanour of the young ladies who officiate.  They receive their half-quartern of gin and peppermint, with considerable deference, prefacing a request for ‘one of them soft biscuits,’ with a ‘Jist be good enough, ma’am.’  They are quite astonished at the impudent air of the young fellow in a brown coat and bright buttons, who, ushering in his two companions, and walking up to the bar in as careless a manner as if he had been used to green and gold ornaments all his life, winks at one of the young ladies with singular coolness, and calls for a ‘kervorten and a three-out-glass,’ just as if the place were his own.  ‘Gin for you, sir?’ says the young lady when she has drawn it: carefully looking every way but the right one, to show that the wink had no effect upon her.  ‘For me, Mary, my dear,’ replies the gentleman in brown.  ‘My name an’t Mary as it happens,’ says the young girl, rather relaxing as she delivers the change.  ‘Well, if it an’t, it ought to be,’ responds the irresistible one; ‘all the Marys as ever I see, was handsome gals.’  Here the young lady, not precisely remembering how blushes are managed in such cases, abruptly ends the flirtation by addressing the female in the faded feathers who has just entered, and who, after stating explicitly, to prevent any subsequent misunderstanding, that ‘this gentleman pays,’ calls for ‘a glass of port wine and a bit of sugar.’

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Carefully looking every way but the right one.