Mrs. Unwin considers the market

In this passage from The Winner of Sorrow, a beautifully lucid novel by Brian Lynch about the 18th century British poet William Cowper, the poet's companion, Mrs. Unwin, lies in bed contemplating the street market in her town:

Dawn had not long broken and yet already she could hear a continuous underground rumbling, sudden panicky tramplings, heavy collisions, the explosive gasps of frightened cattle and the curses of drovers beating them. It was market day and horribly wet. She pitied those poor men driving their beasts all night through the downpour, and the women with their few eggs in baskets, half of them rotten, and their skirt-clutching children, bright-eyed and placid from hunger. At least there were no summer flies to cluster around the flayed heads of the sheep that the butchers hung upon hooks on their stalls; and the stream, banked with scrubby willows, which used to run down the middle of the High Street, had been paved over and would not be slopped crimson with gore and guts. But she would have to post one of the maids at the door of the house to stop people making water against it. Sometimes, along with the usual salt cod and herring, there would be halibut all the way from Grimsby, and herring, probably gone off and stinking of ammonia. No, she would buy an old hen from one of those countrywomen, make a good soup and then a blanquette from the breast with plenty of nutmeg.
a much tamer depiction of an 18th century street market in London
(from the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University)

1 comment:

  1. I saw a much less tame depiction of a street market on a Travel Network show about modern day Ethiopia the other day. Especially considering that various forms of "steak tartare" are among the favorite delicacies -- chopped and eaten right there in the market. Do you have TV shows as a medium in the index? Might get too unweildy...


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