Gustave Doré - Taverne à Whitechapel, 1869
"Stick close together, gentlemen; this is a very rough part," our careful guides tell us - some walking before, others behind - the local superintendent or the Scotland Yard sergeant accosting each policeman on his beat, and now and then collecting two or three, and planting them at strategical points or openings, that cover our advance, and keep the country open behind us.
We plunge into a maze of courts and narrow streets of low houses --nearly all the doors of which are open, showing kitchen fires blazing far in the interior, and strange figures moving about. Whistles, shouts, oaths, growls, and the brazen laughter of tipsy women; sullen "goodnights" to the police escort; frequent recognition of notorious rogues by the superintendent and his men; black pools of water under our feet only a ribbon of violet-gray sky overhead! We come to a halt at a low black door. The superintendent's knock means immediate opening. An old man in curduroy breeches and gray stockings, unbuttoned waistcoat, and dirty shirt sleeves, with low muffin cap over his eyes, is about to growl, when the "Good-night, Ben," of the force, brings him to attention and respect at once.
We advance into a low, long, dark room parted into boxes, in which are packed the most rascally company any great city could show. They stare, leer, dig each other in the ribs, fold their black hands over the cards, and grunt and growl sotto voce
as the superintendent reviews them with a firm and placid look of command. The place is clean, compared with the guests, thanks to the Common Lodging-house Act; but it is charged with the unmistakable, overpowering damp and mouldy odor that is in every thieves' kitchen, in every common lodging-house, every ragged hotel."