The melancholy days have come,
The saddest of the year,
When notes are due and lengthy bills
Come in from far and near
When “here is a small account of yours,”
Is whispered in your ear,
And “won’t you please settle now?”
Is all the talk you hear.
You scarce can take a morning walk,
Without ere long you’re met
By Mr. [Snooks] who wants to know
If you can’t “settle” yet;
And at the hour of “dusky eve,”
When you do homeward [hie]
Upon the parlour table, lo!
A pile of bills do lie.
Ye swells, whose salary amounts
To ten times ten a year,
Who sport your [gutta percha boots.]
With such a foreign air, ---
And wear your thirty shilling ["tights,"]
And fancy-buttoned vest,
I wonder not when autumn comes
You seek in vain for rest.
Ye girls with empty bonnets stuck
Upon your empty heads,
With high-priced silks and satin things,
With hoops, and flowers, and braid ---
I wonder what papa will say
When Mr. Spriggins calls,
With just that little bill of his
For bonnets, hoops, and shawls.
And now, my stylish little youth,
And fashionable little maid,
I’ll tell you what you’d better do
When these long bills are paid,
Just spend as many shillings now
Upon your addled brain
As you have spent for costly clothes,
And see how much you’ll gain.

Title:Autumnal Payments


Publication:Accrington Guardian

Published in:Accrington

Date:November 23rd 1861

Keywords:poverty, rich


This poem is written in the ballad meter and consists of four octets. It takes the common poetic subject of autumn and gives it a twist, suggesting this is the time when debts must be repaid to local shops, businesses, and money lenders. Some of those demanding repayment are caricatured as ‘Snooks’ and ‘Mr Spriggins’ in the manner of Dickens, and there is an admonition both to those who are profligate with spending they cannot afford, and those so well off they do not need to go into debt. The problem of domestic debt, already an issue in working-class communities, was hugely exacerbated by the Cotton Famine, and this poem published at the beginning of the ‘Distress’ would only have become more relevant as time went on. – SR