Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Barclay Perkins - more stuff

Ever wondered what colour Barclay Perkins signage was? Wonder no more.

This passage is taken from “Gaslight and Daylight: With Some London Scenes They Shine Upon” by George Augustus Sala, 1859, pages 67 - 68. In it, the author imagines what future archeologists would make of London's pub signs.

"When the race of this huge London World-City shall be run - when the millstone shall have been cast into its waters, and the word has gone forth that Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen - when the spider shall weave his web amidst the broken columns of the Bank; the owl shriek through the deserted arcades of the Exchange; and the jackal prowl through labyrinths of ruins and rubbish, decayed oyster-shells and bleached skeletons of the dogs of other days, where once was Regent Street - I should very much like to know what the 'Central Australian Society for the Advancement of Science,' or the 'Polynesian Archaeological Association,' or the 'Imperial New Zealand Society of Antiquaries,' would be likely to make of a great oblong board which glares at me through the window at which I am writing this present paper - a board some five-and-twenty feet in length perchance, painted a bright resplendent blue, and on which are emblazoned in glittering gold the magic words, 'Barclay, Perkins, and Co.'s Entire.'

One of these boards will, perchance, be disinterred by some persevering savant from a heap of the relics of old London antiquities; wheel-less, shaft-less, rotting Hansom's cabs, rusted chimney-cowls, turnpike-gates of ancient fashion and design, gone-by gas-lamps and street-posts. And the savant will doubtless imagine that he will find in the mysterious board - the once glittering characters - some sign, some key, to the secret freemasonry, some shibboleth of the old London world. Learned pamphlets will be written, doubtless, to prove a connection between Barclay and Perkins and Captain Barclay the pedestrian, and Perkins' steam-gun, who and which, joined together by some Siamese bond of union, became thenceforth and for ever one entire 'Co.' Other sages, haply, will have glimmering notions that Barclay and Perkins have something to do with a certain X.X.X.; others stoutly maintain that the words formed but Christian and surnames, common among the inhabitants of old London, even as were the well-known 'Smiths,' and the established 'Jones.' 'We know,' they will say, 'that the great architect of the most famous buildings in old London was called "Voluntary Contributions;" we know that a majority of the citizens of that bygone city were addicted to the creed of Zoroaster, or sun-worship; for we find on the ruins of their houses votive plates of brass, of circular form, bearing an effigy of the sun, with a reference to fire-insurance - these things have been demonstrated by learned doctors and professors of ability; why may we not, then, assume that Barclay and Perkins were names possessed in an astonishingly prolific degree by London citizens, who, proud of belonging to so respectable a family, were in the habit of blazoning the declaration of their lineage in blue and gold on an oblong board, and affixing the same to the front of their houses?' The Emperor of China has upwards of five thousand cousins, who are distinguished from the tag-rag and bobtail of the
Celestial Empire by wearing yellow girdles. ' Why,' these sages will ask,' may not the parent Barclay Perkins have been a giant, blessed with hundreds of arrows in his quiver, whose thousand thousand descendants were proud to be clad like him in a livery of blue and gold?'

Then the sages will squabble, and wrangle, and call each other bad names, and write abusive diatribes against each other by magnetic telegraph, just as other sages were wont to squabble and wrangle about the Rosetta Stone, the Source of the Niger, and Bruco's discoveries; or, as they do now, about the North-West Passage and the percement of the Isthmus of Suez, the causes of the cholera and diphtheria, and the possibility of aerial navigation. As it has been, so it is, and will be, I suppose ; and if we can't agree nowadays, so shall we, or rather our descendants, disagree in times to come, and concerning matters far less recondite or abstruse than Barclay Perkins.

I know what Barclay and Perkins mean, I hope;- what Combe and Delafield - what Truman, Hanbury, and Buxton - what Calvert and Co. - what Reid and Co. - what Bass - what Allsopp - what Broadwood, Mundell, and Huggins. You know, too, gentle, moderate, and bibulous reader of the present age. They all mean BEER. Beer, the brown, the foaming, the wholesome, and refreshing, when taken in moderation; the stupifying, and to-station-house-leading, when imbibed to excess. That oblong board, all blue and gold, I have spoken of as visible from my parlour window, has no mystery for me. Plainly, unmistakably, it says Beer: a good tap; fourpence a pot in the pewter; threepence per ditto if sent for in your own jug."

"Then the sages will squabble, and wrangle, and call each other bad names, and write abusive diatribes against each other by magnetic telegraph" Sounds like the author is prophesising the internet. Squabbling, name-calling, abuse - that's beer forums to a tee. At least you all know (or at least should do, if you've been paying the slightest attention) what Barclay Perkins means. Don't you?

Gold letters on a blue background. The colour of Barclay Perkins signs. I assume some of you were negatively-arsed when it came to reading that long quote. Next time I won't be so helpful.

1 comment:

Lars Marius Garshol said...

Those who would like to know what the Polynesian Archaeological Association would make of our present civilization could do no better than to read Umberto Eco's fantastic (and hysterically funny) essay "Industry and Sexual Repression in a Po Valley Society". Sala and Eco definitely agree in thinking that certain mistakes are likely to be made.