Certain items have always had a way of falling into my possession, by fair means or foul. Mostly foul, it may be said by those cruel-hearted critics among you, but, as the bard himself said in The Scottish Play “Fair is foul, foul is fair” and, being the eminent Litterateur that I am, I am wont to abide by those laws what he put down with his foul quill rather than those laws what are laid down by the Beak.
So, what particular item is it that has fallen into my possession recently that has me Philosophising today? It is none other than this here card game which came spewing out of some popular press or other back in the good old days when your humble narrator was in his prime.
Now, my current patron has warned me off of writing about this particular set of Sloper memorabilia, reckoning that the pictures therein may not be well suited to the sensibilities of these modern times what we live in now. He says that there are those, even in these enlightened times, that make an habit of taking offense, even when none is meant. If there are any poor souls out there who are like to take offence or upset at the following pictures then please do feel at liberty to quell your good souls, perhaps by making a generous donation to Sloper’s Caring Association for Milksoppery (or the S.C.A.M, if you will), all moneys to be forwarded to the usual address.
So what of these cards then? Well, they comprise of four suits, as would your usual deck that you might have a game of cribbage with; but that is where any similarity ends. The first suit bears the likenesses of the Sloper clan, as seen in me Half Holiday days, with A. Sloper Esq. taking the number one spot, as is should be. Following along on my somewhat ragged tails comes Mrs. Sloper, Tootsie, Alexandry, Evelina, the Twins, Lord Bob, Hon. Billy, Dook Snook, McGoosely, and me old dog Snatcher.
So far, so good. We know where we are. All is well. We then come to the other suits.
Next up we have all the usual Sloper family and friends, including yours truly, but in the form of foreign sorts.
We have Chinese:
We have African:
And we have Egyptian:
Now then, being from the era from what I am from, that being what is now known as Victorian, I am quite used to this sort of characterisation of them what are not English; the powers that be were happy to force those images upon us. Even me dear old Judy who ran the periodical that made my name before the Half-Holiday came along regularly ran lampoons on the current affairs of the day, which usually involved these lowly foreign sorts up against the stout, stiff-upper lipped, Englishman. Just have a look at these:
But, and here’s the thing, whatever them in charge liked to try and make us think, we were all lumped together ‘cheek by jowl‘ in those dark streets of Whitechapel and, in truth, there was no particular hatred among us. Well, no more than usual anyway. Tempers were wont to fray in that powder-keg but any Englishman was just as likely to turn against an Englishman as any other piece of flotsam that washed up from The Thames. And, I myself, would be just as likely to dip the pocket of a foreigner as that of a true born Englishman, for I am not proud. No, them same people that kept the foreign sorts down were the self-same people that kept the likes of us down too. Yes, those pictures of Africans may be somewhat crass, disrespectful even; but, I ask you to look at those pictures of me and my family in true English toggery. Are they any less crass and disrespectful? Am I not as much a victim of falsehoods and lampoonery as the next man of the lower classes, wherever he may have been born?
Course, like most of the fancy-goods what were manufactured bearing the Sloper moniker, these cards fair rolled off the shelves. But, did your Sloper see a brass farthing of them profits? No he did not. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask of you, was them what portrayed me as thief not thieves themselves? What is worse? The poor man bending the rules of common decency to scratch out a living to feed his family, and to have a little over to keep him in his cups as is natural; or the rich man preying on that poor man’s good name to fill his own coffers? I ask you Ladies and Gentleman, which is the foulest, which is the fairest?