Life in London, provides useful insights into the male coterie that was the Fancy, and complements the discussion of the heterogeneity, spectacle, morality, and general social dynamics of the prize ring and its reportage. Arguably, it was a voguish phenomenon, one spawning many imitations and adaptations. One of the ‘imitations’ was Real Life in London (also 1821) by ‘An Amateur’.
A scene at Tattersall’s horse auction mart, by Robert Cruikshank.
Here is Egan's recapitulation of a Life in London snapshot of Tattersall’s: 'The company […] is a mixture of persons of nearly all ranks in life […] The ‘best judge’ respecting sporting events is acknowledged the ‘best man’ here; every person being on the ‘look out’ to see how he lays his blunt. The DUKE and Parliamentary Orator, if they do not know the properties of a horse, are little more than ciphers […] The nod from a stable keeper is quite as important, if not more so to the Auctioneer, as the wink of a RIGHT HONOURABLE' (Book of Sports). Bee described the place as 'that great touchstone of the Sporting World' (Boxiana IV).
Flash was sometimes referred to as ‘St. Giles’s Greek’, which could mean ‘unintelligible speech or language’ (OED). Egan’s aspiration to promote flash vocabulary could only suffer by such an association. Its capacity for use as a secret language was a disturbing dimension. But, when reading about ‘larks’ or prizefights, in which no serious crimes are perpetrated, with the accompanying badinage of Egan’s characters, the language becomes less threatening.
One of Life in London’s more slang-laden sections reads:
'I was gammoned to be one of the squad. Mixed liquors and steamers were the order of the darkey. But he praised so highly a cargo of Daffy, which he had just received from the NONPAREIL, that Daffy and water was the preferred suit. After a glass or two had been sluiced over the ivories of the party, which made some of them begin loudly to chaff, BOB gave the wink to his slavey observing that more hot water was wanted'.
It is away from the prize-ring environment that the slang used can be classified as 'flash', distinct from the Boxiana style. Its popularity extended beyond the world of the Fancy. Far from wishing to retain its exclusivity, Egan is eager to render the language more familiar, and justifies its prominent role in this metropolitan tour:
'I am aware that some of my readers of a higher class of society may feel […] that I have introduced a little too much of the slang; but I am anxious to render myself perfectly intelligible to all parties. Half the world are up to it; and it is my intention to make the other half down to it. LIFE IN LONDON demands this kind of demonstration'.
If Egan could enjoy free rein anywhere, it was naturally be in the detached literary territory of pugilistic reporting and the ‘low’ peripheral world of sports writing.