- ‘They are invariably numerous and splendid in precise proportion to the dirt and poverty of the surrounding neighbourhood‘ is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Scenes, Chapter 22 (Gin Shops).
Description of the gin-shops around St. Giles, one of the then poorest slums of London.
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.
Taken from the following passage in the sketch Gin Shops:
The extensive scale on which these places are established, and the ostentatious manner in which the business of even the smallest among them is divided into branches, is amusing. A handsome plate of ground glass in one door directs you ‘To the Counting-house;’ another to the ‘Bottle Department; a third to the ‘Wholesale Department;’ a fourth to ‘The Wine Promenade;’ and so forth, until we are in daily expectation of meeting with a ‘Brandy Bell,’ or a ‘Whiskey Entrance.’ Then, ingenuity is exhausted in devising attractive titles for the different descriptions of gin; and the dram-drinking portion of the community as they gaze upon the gigantic black and white announcements, which are only to be equalled in size by the figures beneath them, are left in a state of pleasing hesitation between ‘The Cream of the Valley,’ ‘The Out and Out,’ ‘The No Mistake,’ ‘The Good for Mixing,’ ‘The real Knock-me-down,’ ‘The celebrated Butter Gin,’ ‘The regular Flare-up,’ and a dozen other, equally inviting and wholesome liqueurs. Although places of this description are to be met with in every second street, they are invariably numerous and splendid in precise proportion to the dirt and poverty of the surrounding neighbourhood. The gin-shops in and near Drury-Lane, Holborn, St. Giles’s, Covent-garden, and Clare-market, are the handsomest in London. There is more of filth and squalid misery near those great thorough-fares than in any part of this mighty city.
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