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Parishocracy; or, a Tale of an Antiquary

by Renton Nicholson

Cockney Adventures and Tales of London Life, vol. 1, issue 4 (1838)

Pages 26-32

A sample page from Parishocracy; or, a Tale of an Antiquary by Renton Nicholson
First page of “Parishocracy; or a Tale of an Antiquary.” Used by permission, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University

Introductory Note: “Parishocracy; or, a Tale of an Antiquary” is not your typical love story. Instead, it mixes a love plot with a gripping adventure story . Taking place in London, this tale follows the plight of Mr. Horace Pringle as he strives to win over the love of his life against all odds.


Shewing the characters and pursuits of some important personages in this detail – a love affair – the sack – wrath of a beadle – a row – insult – a fight – expulsion – aid called in, &c. &c.

NOT a thousand miles from Towerhill, dwelt Mr. Horace Pringle, and Mr. Horace Pringle was a person of much consequence and importance in the vicinity of his residence; we cannot say that he exactly derived his importance from his own merit or attributes, but materially from the fact of his being the only son of his father, Mr. Pringle, senior, who had the good fortune and distinguished honour to be the beadle of the parish.1A beadle is a ceremonial officer of a church, college, or similar institution.

To the immense parochial influence, then, of his illustrious progenitor, did Mr. Horace Pringle owe the exalted position he maintained in society; to which was added, a certain degree of local eminence, unattainable to many of the envious myriads by whom Mr. Horace Pringle was surrounded.

At the time our interesting narrative commences, Mr. Horace was just turned two-and-twenty; in appearance tall, sandy hair, and fair complexion; by profession, assistant to Mr. Home Fag, the vestry clerk and parish solicitor.2A vestry clerk is an officer chosen by the vestry, who keeps a record of its proceedings;  also, in England, one who keeps the parish accounts and books. Mr. Home Fag was, in manners, usages, regulations, customs, &c. what Mr. Horace Pringle termed a wery pertickler man; moreover, he was a great antiquarian, and a collector of rarities and natural curiosities, in fact, all manner of antique relics, for—

“He’d a remnant of Cicero’s gown,

(His waistcoat was made of a piece),

And his bolster was stuffed with the down

Of the famous Capitoline geese.

“He’d the fair queen of Carthage’s slippers,

A gift from her false Trojan swain;

And a huge pair of silver-gilt nippers,

With which Cæsar uncork’d his champagne.”

So Mr. Home Fag occupied his time between parochial law and antideluvian research. Horace Pringle assisted him in both these opposite pursuits, very much indeed to the satisfaction of Mr. Home Fag; and there is little doubt but he would have continued to do so, had not that mischievous meddler in the fortunes of mankind, called Love, interfered with the duty and allegiance of Mr. Horace Pringle. He became desperately and romanticly enamoured of Miss Dian Calypso Fag, the only daughter of his respected employer. Now Miss Dian Calypso was intended by her father to be the wife of a gentleman who possessed a corresponding taste with himself, viz. for the antique; in fact, a better specimen of modern antiquity could not be found than was represented in the proper person of Mr. Zodiac Buck, the received admirer of Miss Dian Calypso Fag. Mr. Zodiac Buck was not a young man, nor could he be said to be an old one, yet he was suspected to be on the wrong side of forty-five; he wore a wig, a glass eye, and a set of false teeth; but he was a man of money, and that was a qualification Mr. Fag thought indispensable in a son-in-law; so, as far as her father’s consent went, it was agreed that Mr. Zodiac Buck should wed Miss Dian Calypso Fag.

Now the young lady had cherished an attachment for Mr. Horace Pringle, and she at once told her father that she would have nothing to do with Zodiac Buck, or any other buck, but her own dear, dear Horace. This piece of information sealed the fate of young Pringle – at least for the time – for he was forthwith dismissed from the services of Mr. Home Fag, and one Dick Bradley, the issue male of the grave-digger’s wife, installed in his place.

When Mr. Horace Pringle was discharged, he sauntered to the house of his father, the beadle, with a very heavy heart, scarcely able to explain to his respected parent the reason for which Mr. Home Fag had given him the sack. When the senior Mr. Pringle understood the imagined cause of his sudden dismissal, the blood of the beadles rose high in his honourable bosom, and he became wrathful; he grasped his cocked hat, placed it on his wig, and sallied forth to the office of Mr. Fag, swearing all the way, that if his son was not reinstated he would resign the robes and honours of beadleism, and at the end of the year, contest himself the office of vestry clerk, in opposition to Fag.

Now Mr. Pringle had the most profound respect for his superiors in office, and nothing short of the circumstances we have detailed could have induced him to wage war with Mr. Home Fag. He entered that gentleman’s office with the air of an injured and insulted dignitary.

“Is Mr. Fag within?” said Mr. Pringle to Mr. Dick Bradley, who was there, before his face, occupying the identical stool which, but the day before, he had considered the undisputed throne of his son, Mr. Horace.

“He’s engaged,” said Mr. Dick Bradley, lolling back, with a ruler in his hand, and a pen behind each ear.

“Have the goodness to say as I wants him, young man, vill yer,” said Mr. Pringle, smothering the anger that was rising in his throat, almost to suffocation.

“I know he won’t see you,” said the impertinent Dick, without offering to move.

“What for, Mr. Jackanapes?” said the irritated beadle.

“Cos he’s busy,” was the laconic reply of Mr. Richard Bradley.

“My business is wery important,” vociferated Mr. Pringle, “and I insist upon your letting your master know I’m here!”

Mr. P.’s firmness induced Mr. Bradley to vacate the stool for a moment, and, opening a door behind him, that young gentleman called out, “Betsey!”

“Yes,” said a female voice from below.

“Tell the governor here’s old Pringle the beadle wants to speak to him.”

This was too much for Mr. Pringle – it was not to be borne, he, as we have said, being a person most susceptible of indignity, would not brook an insult from the son of a grave-digger. To rush upon Mr. Dick Bradley, and to grasp Mr. Dick Bradley’s throat, was but the work of a moment with Mr. Pringle. “Murder!” exclaimed that young gentleman, and down came Mr. Home Fag and Mr. Zodiac Buck to his assistance.

“What does this mean, Pringle?” said Mr. Home Fag.

“Leave the lad alone, villain!” said Mr. Z. Buck.

The rage of the beadle kindled against Mr. Buck, and he applied a most opprobrious name to that individual, at the same time invoking the wrath of heaven upon that gentleman’s optics, real and artificial. Mr. Fag and Zodiac Buck thrust Mr. Pringle, senior, from the house, by main force; no easy task, indeed, for he was a man upon a large scale, and struggled desperately: the thing, in all probability, would not have been accomplished at all, had not Mr. Home Fag called to his aid a pair of turncocks who happened to be passing promiscuously.3Turncocks were waterworks officials responsible for turning on water at the mains.


Shewing the rage of Mr. Pringle, senior – its consequences – junior Mr. P.’s resolve – advertisement extraordinary – an application and interview with the seignior – engagement – communication in reference to the closet – that same acted upon – obligation returned by the way of fight – fright of Mr. Fag, &c.

MR. PRINGLE left the office of the vestry clerk inflamed to the highest possible pitch of passion. In that evil hour he called upon one of the disaffected members of the parishocracy, a loquacious barber; to him he confided some most important secrets connected with the office of the vestry clerk, and certain winking and blinking connivances of the churchwardens, together with a tacit do-as-you-likeishness on the part of the rector; and the communicative beadle wound up by assuring the barber, that, upon some future occasion, he could and would inform the vestry of a great deal more about the peculations of Mr. Home Fag, and persons connected with him.4A churchwarden is either of the two elected lay representatives in an Anglican parish, formally responsible for movable church property and for keeping order in church. This was enough for the meddling pigmy patriotic barber, and we shall, by and by, show what use he made of the information given to him, in the heat of the moment, by the excited and indiscreet Mr. Beadle Pringle; but we have much to state in reference to our hero, Mr. Horace, whom we left at home during all these proceedings.

Horace was not a man to be beaten or discouraged by circumstances, so he forthwith resolved to see the object of his affection, Miss Fag, without delay. To that end he wandered forth, and the following announcement fortuitously met his view:—

“Wanted, an active young man to attend to a menagerie and museum of natural curiosities; apply at No.—, B—street, Tower-hill.”

“Next door to Fag’s, by Jove,” said Mr. Horace Pringle to himself; “blow’d if I don’t go and see if I can get the berth,” and with that he bent his steps towards the house as directed, to apply for the situation.

Mr. Horace Pringle having made his business known, was ushered into the presence of Seignior Rodolpho Harbottle Bugtrap, the owner of the museum. Upon Mr. Horace making the nature of his visit known, that gentleman informed him, that he would be required to act as clerk and cashier to the establishment, and when occasion required, to encase himself in a skin, for the purpose of representing a living kangaroo, and sometimes a dancing bear. To all this Mr. Horace Pringle acceded, and was duly installed into the office requiring the performance of the duties alluded to. Mr. Horace Pringle, without informing his father, hastened to take up his residence in the repository of rarities.

“You will sleep here, sir,” said the seignior, conducting Mr. Horace to an apartment, strange to say, overlooking the cabinet of curiosities of Mr. Home Fag. “In that closet, sir,” continued the seignior, “you will find the wardrobe of the beasts you will sometimes be called upon to represent.”

Mr. Horace Pringle, having thanked his new employer, bade him good-night, and retired to his bed, but not to rest.

As soon as the seignior left the room, he explored the closet of disguises, and having selected a kangaroo suit, shoved himself into it, and resolved upon visiting the house of his late master through the skylight.

“He made a vow that fatal night,

To stick to Dian, come what might.”

Mr. Horace Pringle having arrayed himself, certainly looked the largest kangaroo in the known world; and,

“With unholy passion burning,”

he opened the window, then the skylight, and by way of paradox, entered the Temple of Virtu.5Latin for virtue or power.

Without much difficulty he lowered himself into the repository of curiosities belonging to Mr. Home Fag, and hearing footsteps, he crouched himself behind a figure of lasciviousness, exposed indelicately, and labelled Venus. Here, in a stooping and inconvenient position, did Mr. Horace Pringle await the advance of the before-mentioned footsteps.

“Come along,” said a voice; that voice was that of Mr. Home Fag; the party with him Horace soon discovered to be Mr. Zodiac Buck. “I’ll have it removed down stairs to-night,” said Mr. H. Fag to Mr. Z. Buck; “and no one but you shall help me. You know the value I set upon that figure.”

“I do,” responded Buck, “and we’ll remove it to-night.”6Original sentence lacked closing quotation marks.

“I’ve no notion,” said Fag, “of allowing my collection to remain next to a wild beast show; some of the animals might get out and destroy the whole assortment, which it has taken me years to get together.”

“That’s true,” answered Z. Buck, “and very likely they will do so if you don’t remove them.”

At this moment an idea struck Mr. Horace Pringle; he had for a long time contemplated the annihilation of Mr. Z. Buck, and he conceived that an opportunity now offered. He made a spring from the hind part of Venus, to that same of Mr. Zodiac Buck. The shrieks of that gentleman were only equaled by the fear of his companion.

Mr. Home Fag bolted, without further notice, as hard as he could pelt. Horace Pringle mangled the person of Z. Buck; that is to say, he pinched his seat of honour, and punched his nasal organ; in short, he discharged obligations in a similar way to which the cat did the monkey, viz. over the face and eyes. Had a tiger seized a fat buck, he could not have treated him more roughly than did Mr. Horace Pringle the unfortunate Zodiac. Mr. Buck’s mother, after Mr. Horace’s kangaroo process, could not by any possibility have recognised him. As he never had studied Horace, Horace had little consideration for him, hence he took his revenge.


Shewing how soon friendship fades when danger becomes apparent – the safe retreat – recovery of Mr. Z. Buck – action threatened – an interview – leading astray – the second descent – alarm – a boxing match – resolve of Mr. Home Fag – removal – the return of Mr. Fag – unsatisfactory result of his journey – a wet night – sleeping arrangements, &c.

MR. Z. BUCK having, as we have said, been seized by Horace Pringle, whom he supposed to be “a real kangaroo, and no mistake,” bellowed for help, but in vain. Mr. Home Fag, being persuaded that his friend had become the prey of a wild beast, left him to his fate, and double-locked himself in an adjoining room. Zodiac Buck fainted from fear, and Mr. Horace Pringle having, from sheer spite, upset the favourite figure of Venus, damaged its nose, knocked out one of its eyes, and otherwise deteriorated its value, cut his stick through the skylight; and, having divested himself of the beastly costume, tumbled into bed, gratified at having taken summary vengeance upon Mr. Zodiac Buck, and inwardly resolved to dream upon Miss Dian Calypso Fag, and no one else whatsomever.7A Cockney variation of whatsoever.

That lady’s father remained for some time shut in the small room, in fact, there is no doubt but he would have remained there till now, had not the voice of his friend Zodiac struck upon his ear, assuring him that it was all right, and that the monster had fled. Mr. Home Fag opened the door, and cautiously emerged from the room. Mr. Z. Buck stated that he had had a most terrific conflict with the brute, and had, at length, by the display of great courage, coolness, and intrepidity, put the monster to flight.

The reader is fully aware how far the statement was correct: but it was all credited by Mr. Home Fag, who contented himself by threatening an action forthwith, against the proprietor of the museum.

On the following morning Mr. Home Fag, accompanied by Mr. Zodiac Buck, waited upon the next-door neighbour, as the first step towards the threatened proceedings. Mr. Horace Pringle received them, and judging from appearances the nature of their errand, was prepared with a reply.

“We wish to see Mr. Bugtrap,” said Mr. Home Fag, evidently very much astonished at beholding his late clerk, acting officially, at the menagerie.

“He is not at home, sir,” said Mr. Horace Pringle; “is it anything I can do?”

Mr. Fag explained that he had called prior to sueing for the amount of damage done to the before-mentioned figure of Venus, by a stray animal, belonging to Mr. Rodolph Bugtrap.

Mr. Horace Pringle coolly informed his former master, that he must be labouring under some very extraordinary delusion, as no beast of any description was located in that part of the premises, but that if he wished particularly to see Mr. Bugtrap he could do so by going to a country fair, which that gentleman was attending some ten miles from town.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Zodiac Buck, “the sooner you see him the better;” and the pair of intimates left, declaring their intention to proceed, per coach, as directed by Mr. Horace Pringle.

No sooner had they departed, than Mr. Horace proceeded to take advantage of their absence, to gain an interview with Miss Dian Calypso; and having ascended to his sleeping room, descended once more into the museum of Mr. Home Fag.

“I’ll see her now,” thought Horace, “if I wait all day.” He advanced to the door, and found it fast, but, as he could hear footsteps coming up stairs, he endeavoured to make his escape, though he clearly perceived that he could not do so in time. What was to be done? An immense chest, made of the timber of the Royal George, he knew stood behind the Venus – to rush to it, and hide himself therein, was but the work of a moment with Mr. Horace Pringle. He heard the door open, and the well-known voices of Mr. Z. Buck and Mr. Fag became alarmingly audible.

“I tell you what it is, Buck, I won’t go till we’ve removed these things down stairs. If the beast should get in again, there is no knowing what damage may be done. I’ll see them all out of here before we depart.”

Several able-bodied fellows from the Tower-stairs, under the superintendance of Mr. Bradley, were speedily set to work; and Mr. Home Fag’s collection of curiosities was, in a very short space of time, scattered all over the house. The box containing Mr. Horace Pringle was deposited in the sleeping-room of Miss Dian Calypso; and, as if by way of a judgment upon that mischievous individual, the broken Venus was placed on the top of it, thereby rendering his retreat impossible.

It was very late in the day before Mr. Home Fag started on his journey in search of Mr. Rodolph Bugtrap. He requested, however, Mr. Zodiac Buck to stop, and take care of the house, as it was barely possible he might not return that night. Mr. Z. Buck did stay until a late hour; and at that late hour came back Mr. Home Fag, without being able to find out either the fair to which he had been directed, or Mr. Bugtrap. Moreover, he was wet to the skin, for the rain fell in torrents.

“You cannot go home, such a night as this, Buck,” said Mr. Fag; “you must sleep here.”

Where was he to sleep? that was the question. He was too polite a man to deprive any one of his bed – that he would not think of. At length it was arranged that Miss Dian Calypso Fag should sleep in Mr. Dick Bradley’s bed, and that Mr. Buck should repose in Miss Dian’s – Mr. Bradley being provided for in a bed made upon the box containing Mr. Horace Pringle, in the same room, who all this time had only kept life together by inhaling the atmospheric air through the key-hole of that same.

Matters being thus arranged, and agreed to, Mr. Buck retired to rest, and shortly after Mr. Dick Bradley appeared, accompanied by certain extra blankets, pillows, and bolsters, to domicile himself upon the ancient trunk. After some trouble and exertion, on the part of Mr. Richard Bradley, the precious disfigured figure of what that gentleman, in cockney pronunciation, denominated Wenus, was removed from the box to the floor, to give place to his own living and lively carcase. This important piece of business having been accomplished, Mr. Dick Bradley shook up something in the shape of a bed, stretched himself at full length upon the box, and was, in a short time, embraced by a gentleman known mythologically as Mr. Morpheus.8Mr. Morpheus was Greco-Roman mythological creature who was one of the sons of Hypnos, the god of sleep.


Proceedings at the vestry – impeachment of certain members of the parishocracy – motion made and carried – alarm of the beadle – a snoring companion – laughable mistake – a row – alarm – the house disturbed – harsh resolve of Mr. Fag – arrival of the beadle – case altered – and the sequel.

WE must now return to Mr. Pringle, senior, whose wrath had much increased since the unaccountable absence of his son. The busy barber, of whom he had made a confidant, without delay informed the disaffected party to which he was attached, of the nature of the beadle’s communication. The storm was fast gathering, and that same night, at the vestry, it burst forth, in the shape of manifold charges and invectives, against the leading members of the parishocracy. Upon the authority of the beadle, the rector was impeached; the churchwardens were accused of conspiracy, and Mr. Home Fag charged with the high crime and misdemeanour of wearing satin breeches, and collecting expensive curiosities, at the expense of the parishioners.

“Discharge him! discharge him instantly!” resounded within the vestry room of the parish of Pettyfriars. In vain did one or two of the friends of the absent Mr. Fag endeavour to obtain a hearing in his behalf – the motion was made, and carried almost nem. con., that an election for vestry clerk take place forthwith; and also, that a committee be appointed to enquire into the conduct of the rector and the churchwardens.9Nem. Con. is an abbreviation of the Latin nemine contradicente, which means no one disagreeing. Mr. Beadle Pringle saw, too late, the ruinous effects of his passionate indiscretion; and, after a long consideration, at one o’clock in the morning he resolved upon going to the house of Mr. Fag, to inform him of the catastrophe, and consult as to what was best to be done; for he began to feel his own situation anything but secure, in the event of an enquiry as to where the information was obtained, upon which his superiors were impeached.

We must now return to Mr. Horace Pringle, whom we left, it will be recollected, in anything but an enviable position. His weariness at length overcame the fear he entertained of being discovered, and he fell into a sound sleep, and snored prodigiously. Mr. Zodiac Buck was a very restless and fidgetty man, and if one thing was more annoying to him than another, it was hearing a person snore. He rose, naturally imagining that the sounds proceeded from Mr. Dick Bradley, and having subjected that gentleman to a severe shaking, enquired “What the devil he made such a noise for?” Mr. Richard, of course, “denied the soft impeachment,” and Mr. Zodiac Buck again sought repose, but in vain.

After Mr. Horace Pringle had imagined himself clasped in the arms of his beloved Miss Dian Calypso Fag, “a change came o’er the spirit of his dream,” and he felt persuaded that he had been called upon for a song, and in his sleep he vociferated some straggling sentences of an admired ballad he had recently learnt, called “Charming Betsey Baker.”

Mr. Zodiac Buck lost all patience. “Do you mean to insult me, villain,” said he, addressing the sleeping Mr. Dick Bradley, and once more he ventured out of bed to remonstrate with his supposed noisy companion.

At this moment Horace, not having the dread of exposure before his eyes, in his dream, lifted his foot to the lid of the box, and fairly capsized Mr. Dick Bradley on to the feet of Mr. Zodiac Buck, who shrieked with alarm at the sudden somerset of his nocturnal disturber. The lid of the trunk stood open, and Mr. Pringle, junior, more asleep than awake, popped up his head. The cries of terror uttered by Mr. Buck drew to the apartment Mr. Home Fag, Miss Dian Calypso, and Betsey, the maid of all work. Mr. Fag always burned a rush-light, and he entered the room bearing that pigmy illuminator in his hand. Zodiac Buck, as was his custom when very much alarmed, was taking a refreshing swoon on the side of the bed. Dick Bradley, half asleep, and not at all comprehending the matter, hastily gathered the blankets round his middle, and gazed upon the assembled crowd, while Horace Pringle viewed the party from the box, with his head just emerging from the top thereof. Old Fag was completely flabbergastered; he knew not which to question first, but he made towards his late clerk, and demanded what his business might be in that trunk. Of course Mr. Horace was unable to explain, and Mr. Fag was about consigning him to the care of the police, when a loud single knock proclaimed the arrival of his father, upon the business we have before stated. Mr. Home Fag was called out to speak with him, and that gentleman speedily discovered the necessity of being upon the best possible terms with Mr. Beadle Pringle. Mr. Horace was released with a slight admonition, and the next evening saw all parties assembled before the vestry. There is a similarity in the proceedings of all great men, and the candle-makers, bakers, and linen-drapers of Pettyfriars displayed the gigantic powers of their eloquence in the set phrase of parliamentary warfare. Mr. Candle-maker Dipstore arose, and at the same time lamented the necessity for his so doing; he spoke in the highest possible terms of the vestry clerk as a private individual, but as a public man he denounced him as a traitor to the parish. The learned gentleman concluded a speech, fraught with immense intelligence and ability, by observing, that Mr. Home Fag had recently purchased the whiskers of Whittington’s cat, at a very enormous cost: he was but an humble individual, but he most humbly conceived that such rare commodities could not be purchased out of the simple income, adequate as it was to the duties, of a mere westry clerk. Mr. Baker Doughty conceived, that if the individual as had jist set down was a humble man, he was a much more humbler, yet he would say that the conduct of the westry clerk in wearing satin breeches was very indecent; while many of the most respectable of the inhabitants of that ere parish were content with welveteens and corderoys. After a few more speeches equally to the purpose, the small barber was called in and examined. He deposed to the effect, that the beadle had called at his shop in a state of great irritation and agitation, and explained to him by what means Mr. Horace Fag arrayed himself in satin inexpressibles, and collected rarities at the expense of the parish. The beadle being called up, contradicted all the material points of the evidence of the last witness, and soberly and solemnly affirmed, that he never said nothing of the sort. Mr. Linen-draper Remnant spoke in favour of the vestry clerk, and entered into a long dissertation upon the cost of satin breeches, their length of wear, respectable appearance, &c.; and finally observed, that the whiskers alluded to were not the identical pair belonging to Whittington’s cat, but taken from a descendant male of that ere wonderful animal. This explanation was considered satisfactory by some, of course the contrary by others. Mr. Home Fag addressed the meeting in his defence. He entered into a most elaborate statement in reference to the purchase of natural curiosities and satin breeches; he admitted, that perhaps he had not considered maturely the necessary points of parochial etiquette, in sporting damask silks, while even the churchwardens had, as upon record, appeared in corderoys and velveteens; he further gave a most volumnious account of his several purchases in works of virtù. He stated, that all his dear relics were bargains; that all of them had been purchased under prime cost by him, on account of damage: that his Telemachus had lost an eye, his Calypso her lips, his Mars was disarmed, and his Mentor was not a subject for judgment. Moreover, his Hercules had no head, his Venus had lost her left breast, and his Cupid his quiver and arrows; so that, in fact, his whole collection was, to the say the most, worth nothing. The intelligent man of law sat down after a most able vindication of his own conduct, and all the persons connected with him. Mr. Mitchener, the parish printer, arose amid loud plaudits; he entered upon the subject, and proceeded to say, that for many years he had conducted, he flattered himself, with credit and ability, the composing matters of a public journal, which, he was happy to inform that assembly, had been most successful, in fact, taken the lead amongst provincial newspapers, and he could with safety affirm, that during his experience in parochial matters, and he begged to inform the vestry that had been great, for he had had several beautiful infants affiliated unto him, he never had beheld any parish officer of eminence without satin breeches; he meant to say, and he trusted in so doing that he should give no offence to any gentleman present, that anything in the shape of corderoys or velveteens, were not only derogatory to the official situation, but totally at variance with the costume of respectable tradesmen. This was followed by loud cheers, in the course of which the beadle was bonetted, and a Mr. Bumper taken into custody for the outrage. After order was obtained, it was agreed to put the matter to the vote, viz. whether Mr. Home Fag kept his situation as vestry clerk of Pettyfriars or not. Upon this the beadle whispered to Mr. Fag, and in two minutes the vestry was crowded with small rate-payers and officials. The grave-diggers, the turncocks, and assistant dustmen, all flocked in and voted for Fag. This ruse entirely outwitted the disaffected party, and once more seated Mr. Home Fag in his place of peculation. For this good turn on the part of Mr. Pringle, Mr. Fag gave his consent to the union between Horace and Miss Dian Calypso, to the great discomfiture of Mr. Zodiac Buck, who has ever since declared war against Mr. Fag; and, having plenty of money, attends all the sales of curiosities, for the purpose of outbidding him: yet it appears that Mr. Buck was occasionally outwitted, for

“Now and then, though, our friend got a rub,

   Some antiques once brought to the hammer,

When he purchased for Hercules’ club,

   An Irishman’s old paving rammer.

“A cat with two tails, a rare lot,

   He next bought, and soon after the sale,

Found one fastened on, which was not

   Like this, an original tail.

“Again, at a guinea a pound,

   He purchased—imagine his fury—

The fifth Harry’s breast-plate, and found

   ‘Twas the Harry the Fifth of Old Drury.”

Miss Dian Calypso Fag is now Mrs. Pringle, the wife of the collector of the poors’-rates for the parish of Pettyfriars, situate within the precincts of the Tower Hamlets, for soon after the wedding Mr. Horace obtained that situation, by the interest of his father-in-law.

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How To Cite (MLA Format)

Renton Nicholson. “Parishocracy; or, a Tale of an Antiquary.” Cockney Adventures and Tales of London Life, vol. 1, no. 4, 1838, pp. 26-32. Edited by Daniel Sowards. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 25 July 2024,


Daniel Sowards
Chloe Foulk
Marcus Cain
Cosenza Hendrickson


21 March 2020

Last modified

24 July 2024


1 A beadle is a ceremonial officer of a church, college, or similar institution.
2 A vestry clerk is an officer chosen by the vestry, who keeps a record of its proceedings;  also, in England, one who keeps the parish accounts and books.
3 Turncocks were waterworks officials responsible for turning on water at the mains.
4 A churchwarden is either of the two elected lay representatives in an Anglican parish, formally responsible for movable church property and for keeping order in church.
5 Latin for virtue or power.
6 Original sentence lacked closing quotation marks.
7 A Cockney variation of whatsoever.
8 Mr. Morpheus was Greco-Roman mythological creature who was one of the sons of Hypnos, the god of sleep.
9 Nem. Con. is an abbreviation of the Latin nemine contradicente, which means no one disagreeing.