Background.

Sketches by Boz
  • The principal amusement is to drag young ladies up the steep hill … and then drag them down again, at the very top of their speed, greatly to the derangement of their curls and bonnet-caps, and much to the edification of lookers-on from below‘ is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Scenes, Chapter 12 (Greenwich Fair).

Context.

In this quote, Charles Dickens describes the atmosphere of the bi-annual Greenwich Fair that was a popular attraction in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, up until its closure in 1857.

Young men and women let their hair down at the Greenwich Fair by running down the steep slopes of Greenwich Park. Sketch by George Cruikshank drawn for the 1836 edition of The Comic Almanac.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in the sketch Greenwich Fair:

The chief place of resort in the daytime, after the public-houses, is the park, in which the principal amusement is to drag young ladies up the steep hill which leads to the Observatory, and then drag them down again, at the very top of their speed, greatly to the derangement of their curls and bonnet-caps, and much to the edification of lookers-on from below.  ‘Kiss in the Ring,’ and ‘Threading my Grandmother’s Needle,’ too, are sports which receive their full share of patronage.  Love-sick swains, under the influence of gin-and-water, and the tender passion, become violently affectionate: and the fair objects of their regard enhance the value of stolen kisses, by a vast deal of struggling, and holding down of heads, and cries of ‘Oh!  Ha’ done, then, George—Oh, do tickle him for me, Mary—Well, I never!’ and similar Lucretian ejaculations.  Little old men and women, with a small basket under one arm, and a wine-glass, without a foot, in the other hand, tender ‘a drop o’ the right sort’ to the different groups; and young ladies, who are persuaded to indulge in a drop of the aforesaid right sort, display a pleasing degree of reluctance to taste it, and cough afterwards with great propriety.

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The principal amusement is to drag young ladies up the steep hill … and then drag them down again, at the very top of their speed, greatly to the derangement of their curls and bonnet-caps, and much to the edification of lookers-on from below.

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Blog Articles.

Discover more about the huge biannual spectacle of Greenwich Fair in our blog article All the fun of Charles Dickens’s Greenwich Fair.