Released on 16Nov2010
London Labour and the London Poor, by Henry Mayhew
The greatest Victorian novel never written. London Labour and the London Poor
is an extraordinary work of investigative journalism, a work of literature, and a groundbreaking work of sociology. It originated in a series of articles for a London newspaper and grew into a massive record of the daily life of Victorian London’s underclass. Henry Mayhew conducted hundreds of interviews with the city’s street traders, entertainers, thieves, and beggars which revealed that the ‘two nations’ of rich and poor were much closer than many people thought.
By turns alarming, touching, and funny, the pages of London Labour and the London Poor exposed a previously hidden world to view. The first-hand accounts of costermongers and street-sellers, of sewer-scavengers and chimney-sweeps, are intimate and detailed and provide an unprecedented insight into their day-to-day struggle for survival.
This new selection offers a cross-section of the original volumes and their evocative illustrations, and includes an illuminating introduction to Henry Mayhew and the genesis of his work by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Henry Mayhew was a journalist, novelist, dramatist, and social investigator, born in London in 1812. He was one of the founding editors of Punch and went on to produce some of the most important journalism of the nineteenth century.
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph and Times Literary Supplement and has previously edited Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books and Great Expectations for Oxford World’s Classics. He is the author of Victorian Afterlives (OUP, 2002).