Moll of Wapping: An Eastern Tale, Part 1
The Snob: A Literary and Scientific Journal, vol. 1, issue 4 (1829)
NOTE: This entry is in draft form; it is currently undergoing the VSFP editorial process.
Introductory Note: Though very short, “Moll of Wapping,” the longest piece of short fiction found in The Snob. Like many works of the period, it was published in serial format. The story’s light-hearted, facetious tone and overblown verbiage are in line with the rest of the journal; tongue-in-cheek comments and satire abound. “Moll of Wapping” is essentially a nonsense story. It follows Moll, a horrendously ugly middle-aged woman, and her lover, Sooty Dobbs. The story’s depictions of a member of the lower classes by well-to-do Cambridge students are fascinating, but the tale’s true genius lies in its wit and humor.
This entry was published as the first of three parts:
THE moonlight of innocence had long rested undisturbed on that bank of peace—the any-thing-but-snowy bosom of Moll of Wapping; the old shoe of scandal had not yet been flung at the head of her respectability, nor had the black eye of frailty yet deformed the face of her fair frame. 1 Wapping is a London district that was located by the city’s shipping docks. It was lower-class, generally regarded as shady, and the site of the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders in 1811. Her beauties how shall I describe, e’en at the bare mention of them my feathered goose-quill staggers, its nebs start asunder with horror, while its inky perspiration blots my virgin page. An eye (for Heaven, fearful of their power, had granted her but one), black as Erebus, peer’d from beneath a brow, on which grey hair and filth “sat in communion sweet;” for already had her locks, through care and sleepless nights, put on the robe of twilight; her cheek rivalled the stupendous ocean in its azure tint; her teeth, in number three, palpable darkness and mortality had called their own; and, as for her nose, sure rosy-fingered morn herself must have deigned to pull it, and then,
“Her blushing fingers left their blushes there.”2Erebus is the personification of darkness in Greek theogony. Also a place of darkness on the way to Hades.
But to the tale. Scarce fifty summers yet had seen their close, when as the clock was tolling four—chimney-sweeping hour—upon the dusky ear of sleepy Wapping sinners, Moll issued from her native alley; a short black pipe stood in proud consciousness ‘twixt her blacker lips, while the wanton smoke curled up her yawning nostrils, or in playful innocence danced ‘mid the crags of her carbuncled nose.3A carbuncle is a puss and fluid-filled abcess larger than a boil, usually caused by bacterial infection. Her hat was brimless as infinity; her gown was cotton. On her head a wicker-basket extended its oval flatness, from which there came “an ancient and fish-like smell;” and well there might; she carried sprats,— sprats that outdid in odour Ægypt’s myriad heaps of sad expiring frogs,—sprats that might have sickened any man, and turned the stomach of a Kitchener to dust.4Sprats are small, herring-like fish.
(To be continued.)
This story is continued in Moll of Wapping: An Eastern Tale, Part 2.
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11 January 2021
14 September 2021
|↑1||Wapping is a London district that was located by the city’s shipping docks. It was lower-class, generally regarded as shady, and the site of the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders in 1811.|
|↑2||Erebus is the personification of darkness in Greek theogony. Also a place of darkness on the way to Hades.|
|↑3||A carbuncle is a puss and fluid-filled abcess larger than a boil, usually caused by bacterial infection.|
|↑4||Sprats are small, herring-like fish.|
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