The Geology of Society

by Instant Noodle


The study of Geology, in the narrow acceptation of the word, is confined to the investigation of the materials which compose this terrestrial globe;—in its more extended signification, it relates, also, to the examination of the different layers or strata of society, as they are to be met with in the world.

Society is divided into three great strata, called High Life—Middle Life—and Low Life. Each of these strata contains several classes, which have been ranged in the following order, descending from the highest to the lowest—that is, from the drawing-room of St. James’s to the cellar in St. Giles’s.

High Life. Superior Class. ST. JAMES’S SERIES.
People wearing coronets.
People related to coronets.
People having no coronet, but who expect to get one.
People who talk of their grandfathers, and keep a carriage.
Transition Class. SECONDARY.
(Russell-square group.)
People who keep a carriage, but are silent respecting their grandfathers.
Middle Life. People who give dinners to the superior series.
People who talk of the four per cents, and are suspected of being mixed up in a grocery concern in the City.
(Clapham group.)
People who “confess the Cape,” and say, that though Pa amuses himself in the dry-salter line in Fenchurch-street, he needn’t do it if he didn’t like.
People who keep a shop “concern” and a one-horse shay, and go to Ramsgate for three weeks in the dog-days.
Metamorphic Class. People who keep a “concern,” but no shay, do the genteel with the light porter in livery on solemn occasions.
People, known as “shabby-genteels,” who prefer walking to riding, and study Kidd’s “How to live on a hundred a-year.”
(Whitechapel group.)
Low Life. People who dine at one o’clock, and drink stout out of the pewter, at the White Conduit Gardens.
Primitive Formation. People who think Bluchers fashionable, and ride in pleasure “wans” to Richmond on Sundays in summer.
(St. Giles’s group.)
Tag-rag and bob-tail in varieties.

It will be seen, by a glance at the above table, that the three great divisions of society, namely, High Life, Low Life, and Middle Life, are subdivided, or more properly, sub-classed, into the Superior, Transition, and Metamorphic classes. Lower still than these in the social scale is the Primitive Formation—which may be described as the basis and support of all the other classes. The individuals comprising it may be distinguished by their ragged surface, and shocking bad hats; they effervesce strongly with gin or Irish whiskey. This class comprehends the St. Giles’s Group—(which is the lowest of all the others, and is found only in the great London basin)—and that portion of the Whitechapel group whose individuals wear Bluchers and ride in pleasure ‘wans’ to Richmond on Sundays. In man’s economy the St. Giles’s Group are exceedingly important, being usually employed in the erection of buildings, where their great durability and hod-bearing qualities are conspicuous. Next in order is the Metamorphic class—so called, because of the singular metamorphoses that once a week takes place amongst its individuals; their common every-day appearance, which approaches nearly to that of the St. Giles’s Group, being changed, on Sundays, to a variegated-coloured surface, with bright buttons and a shining “four-and-nine”—goss. This class includes the upper portion of the Whitechapel Group, and the two lower strata of the Clapham Group. The Whitechapel Group is the most elevated layer of the inferior series. The Shabby Genteel stratum occupies a wide extent on the Surrey side of the water—it is part of the Clapham Group, and is found in large quantities in the neighbourhood of Kennington, Vauxhall, and the Old Kent-road. A large vein of it is also to be met with at Mile-end and Chelsea. It is the lowest of the secondary formation. This stratum is characterised by its fossil remains—a great variety of miscellaneous articles—such as watches, rings, and silk waistcoats and snuff-boxes being found firmly imbedded in what are technically termed avuncular depositories. The deposition of these matters has been referred by the curious to various causes; the most general supposition being, a peremptory demand for rent, or the like, on some particular occasion, when they were carried either by the owner, his wife, or daughter, from their original to their present position, and left amongst an accumulation of “popped” articles from various districts. The chief evidence on this point is not derived from the fossils themselves, but from their duplicates, which afford the most satisfactory proof of the period at which they were deposited. Articles which appear originally to have belonged to the neighbourhood of Belgrave-square have been frequently found in the depositories of the district between Bethnal-green and Spitalfields. By what social deluge they could have been conveyed to such a distance, is a question that has long puzzled the ablest geologists. Immediately above the “shabby genteel” stratum are found the people who “keep a shop concern, but no shay;” it is the uppermost layer of the Metamorphic Class, and, in some instances, may be detected mingling with the supra-genteel Clapham Group. The “shop and no shay” stratum forms a considerable portion of the London basin. It is characterised by its coarseness of texture, and a conglomeration of the parts of speech. Its animal remains usually consist of retired licensed victuallers and obese tallow-chandlers, who are generally found in beds of soft formation, separated from superincumbent layers of Marseilles quilts, by interposing strata of thick double Witneys.

Having proceeded thus far upwards in the social formation, we shall pause until next week, when we shall commence with the lower portion of the TRANSITION CLASS—the “shop and shay people”—and, as we hope, convince our readers of the immense importance of our subject, and the great advantage of studying the strata of human life.

Geology at this period is the trendy new science that all of the cool kids are into – as it is now, of course.

There will be a couple more of these to come.

(October 16, 1841)