London Characters and Crooks
By day, Henry Mayhew was the co-founder and editor of Punch, an amusing gentleman and a Victorian clubman. By night, he frequented the pubs and alleys of London, talking to ordinary working people: chimney-sweeps and rat-catchers, cabbies and dancing-girls, but also the pimps and prostitutes, beggars and thieves of the London underworld. He recorded with startling vividness what they said, how they lived, what they dreamed of. The result is the most fascinating work of oral and documentary history ever written about Victorian London, and an influence on many writers, most notably Dickens. As W. H. Auden wrote, For all its harrowing descriptions of squalor, crime, injustice and suffering, the final impression… of the London poor is not of their misery, but of their self-respect, courage and gaiety.
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