UC Santa Barbara. Email Facebook Twitter. Abstract Mayhew approached his work on London Labour and the London Poor ethnographically, interviewing his subjects directly to render vivid biographical sketches of those who struggled to survive in Victorian London. Thumbnails Document Outline Attachments.
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Enter the password to open this PDF file:. Still there was no look of fear in the people. He called them all by their names, and asked after their families, and once or twice, the "father This accordingly is a test to which all plans of philanthropy and benevolence should be brought, whether intended for the benefit of individuals or of classes, and whether conducted on the voluntary or on the government principle.
This question elicited loud applause. Several other persons followed with statements of a similar character, which were listened to with interest ; but from their general sameness it is not necessary to repeat them here. After occupying nearly four hours, the proceedings were brought to a close by a vote of thanks, and the " street-sellers, performers, and labourers," separated in a most orderly manner.
see I have known between three and four dozen boys and girls sleep in one room. The beds were horrid filthy and full of vermin.
There was very wicked carryings on. Part-pioneer and part-anthropologist, he was a "traveller in the undiscovered country of the poor" who brought back stories about people "of whom the public has less knowledge than of the most distant tribes of the earth".
That was scarcely an exaggeration. Though many thousands of people earned their living in the streets by the middle of the century, in terms of cultural representation they were practically invisible. Their appearances in print were usually restricted to cartoons in Punch, which whittled away their lives to a set of comic catchphrases, or novels in which they provided little more than splashes of local colour, such as Dombey and Son 's description of "the water-carts and the old-clothes men, and the people with geraniums, and the umbrella-mender, and the man who trilled the little bell of the Dutch clock as he went along".
Friend Reviews. Writer Ben Gwalchmai was inspired to write his satirical novel Purefinder after reading about pure finders in the works of Dickens and Mayhew. London Labour and the London Poor Unabridged : Of the education, literature, amusements and politics of the street-Irish. This distillation is itself over pages, so imagine the impact of the entire set! Skip to main content. Customers who bought this item also bought. His narrative is a model of straightforward prose:.
By contrast, Mayhew decided that what his interview subjects said would be the foundation of his work rather than a set of footnotes. The background was thrust into the foreground, and for many readers the effect was as astonishing as if pieces of theatre scenery had come to the front of the stage and introduced themselves to the audience. London Labour and the London Poor would have been a remarkable achievement no matter who had written it.
Coming from Mayhew it was close to being a miracle. Although reasonably well known as a writer before he started his research, he was spoken of by his contemporaries with an amused tolerance that bordered on contempt. Whether he was abandoning half-written works, or almost blowing up his house while trying to manufacture artificial diamonds, he was much better at coming up with ideas than seeing them through.
From he edited the satirical journal Figaro in London; it collapsed in In he helped to found Punch, but was ousted as editor after a few months. He seemed doomed to be the nearly man of Victorian letters. Then in September he was sent by the Morning Chronicle to report on a severe cholera outbreak in the Bermondsey slums. By October the Chronicle's editors had announced a new series of articles, aimed at providing "a full and detailed description of the moral, intellectual, material, and physical condition of the industrial poor throughout England", and Mayhew was to be the Metropolitan Correspondent, filing regular reports from areas of London that might as well have been on the moon for all the notice most people took of them.
He set about interviewing the crossing-sweepers, Punch and Judy entertainers, sandwich-sellers, rag-gatherers, rat-killers, doll's-eye makers, thieves, prostitutes, beggars, and all the other pieces of human flotsam and jetsam that had washed up in the capital.
However, it was only after he abandoned the Chronicle and started to publish his reports independently that the full scale of his ambition became clear. The impact of his work was immediate. When it came to the saddest cases, he also raised money. Mayhew's impact on writers lasted rather longer.
Starting with Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke , which leaned heavily on his revelations about cheap tailors, his influence stretched as far as Philip Larkin's poem " Deceptions ", which re-imagines his harrowing account of a young girl being drugged and raped, and a number of recent works, including Charles Palliser's The Quincunx and Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White.
What these writers recognise is that Mayhew was far more than a snooping reporter.
He was also a skilled storyteller. Some of his techniques specifically echo other genres of writing. By tangling together biography and autobiography, for example, and removing his own questions from the printed version of his interviews, he came close to producing a prose version of the Victorian dramatic monologue.