London Labour and the London Poor (Penguin Classics)
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Unflinching reports of London’s poor from a prolific and influential English writer
London Labour and the London Poor originated in a series of articles, later published in four volumes, written for the Morning Chronicle in 1849 and 1850 when journalist Henry Mayhew was at the height of his career. Mayhew aimed simply to report the realities of the poor from a compassionate and practical outlook. This penetrating selection shows how well he succeeded: the underprivileged of London become extraordinarily and often shockingly alive.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
hurt you at first, ’cos it do, for my swallow was very bad, and I couldn’t eat anything but liquids for two months whilst I was learning. I cured my swallow whilst I was stretching it with lemon and sugar. ‘I was the second one that ever swallowed a snake. I was about seventeen or eighteen years old when I learnt it. The first was Clarke as did it. He done very well with it, but he wasn’t out no more than two years before me, so he wasn’t known much. In the country there is some places where,
notes. I passed a good many in drapers’ shops, also at tailors’ shops. I never tried jewellers, they’re reckoned too good judges. The notes were all finnies (5l. notes), and a good imitation. I made more money at this game, but lived as before, and had my partner still. I was fond of her; she was a nice girl, and I never found that she wronged me in any way. I thought at four months’ end of retiring into the country with gambling-tables, as the risk was becoming considerable. They hung them for
shaky bridge into Providence-buildings—a narrow neck of land set in sewers. Here, in front of the houses, were small gardens that a table-cloth would have covered. Still the one dahlia that here raised its round red head made it a happier and brighter place. Never was colour so grateful to the eye. All we had looked at had been so black and dingy, and had smelt so much of churchyard clay, that this little patch of beauty was brighter and greener than ever was oasis in the desert. Here a herd of
bisness… I wants a prentis, and I am ready to take him” ’ (ch. 3). sodgers: i.e. soldiers. swell-mobsmen: swindlers dressed as gentlemen. smoke-jacks: machines powered by the rising column of smoke produced by a fire, often used to turn a cooking spit. coppers: large metal containers used for cooking and cleaning. Quantity… London: the table that accompanies this section is reproduced as Appendix 3 on pp. 424–5. penny postage: the Uniform Penny Post, established in 1840, allowed letters no
lame old woman and pull a Waterloo close behind her ear; he was a biggish boy and tidily dressed; and the old body screamed, “I’m shot.” She turned about, and the boy says, says he, “Does your grandmother know you’re out? It’s a improper thing, so it is, for you to be walking out by yourself.” You should have seen her passion! But as she was screaming out, “You saucy wagabone!* You boys is all wagabones. People can’t pass for you. I’ll give you in charge, I will,” the lad was off like a shot.