William Thackeray, Punch, 9 March 1850, p. 58. 56). Henry Mayhew's dazzling 'Cyclopoedia' of London street life gave voice to the city's poor and has influenced writers from Kingsley to Larkin. The impact of his work was immediate. Then we washes our faces and hands, and necks, and whoever fetches the fresh water up has first wash; and if the second don’t like to go get fresh, why, he uses the dirty' – Crossing-sweeper. 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. Far odder are the parallels between some of his subjects and Dickens's characters, as if he deliberately sought out people who had sprung off the page into real life. However, Mayhew was unable to be entirely objective in his research. They told Mayhew all their tricks for selling rotten meat or fruit disguised as fresh food: they boiled oranges to make them look bigger and juicier, filled up baskets with leaves and put strawberries on top so customers thought they were buying baskets full of fruit, and hid rotting fish amongst fresh fish. His was plagued by financial problems, and even declared bankruptcy. In the 1850s, he had assisted his brother Henry in conducting hundreds of interviews with "The London Street-Folk", which when published as London Labour and the London Poor had made their voices heard all over the country. Mayhew wrote for newspapers most of his life. Mayhew's account of the cheap goods sold on street corners that carry "gaudy labels bearing sometimes the name of a well-known firm, but altered in spelling or otherwise" will be familiar to anyone who has been tempted to buy a "Louis Viton" handbag or "Guchi" watch, just as the swindler who poses as a "Decayed Gentleman" and sends out begging-letters will strike a chord with anyone stung by email spam. The churning noise of the city is cancelled out by the click of the shutter. With its dizzying tables of statistics and dazzling range of characters, it was both one of the most ambitious early attempts at sociology (a word coined in the 1840s) and the greatest Victorian novel never written. His was plagued by financial problems, and even declared bankruptcy. Mayhew’s distinctive blend of interviews and statistics proved extremely successful, and once he left the Chronicle he continued to publish in weekly pamphlets, and then in bound volumes, in the 1850s and 1860s. In 1841 he helped to found Punch, but was ousted as editor after a few months. 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. – Bone-grubber. Coming from Mayhew it was close to being a miracle. pen a photograph album of Victorian London and you enter a strange twilight world. But while Mayhew was thrilled by statistics, he was more interested in the people behind his calculations and tables. Another section details the lives of dustmen, crossing-sweepers, chimney sweeps and mudlarks, youngsters who pick … Their cries of "Rag and bones", "Sixpence a peck, peas", "Crockery", "Fine young rabbits", and "Roots all a-blowing, all a-growing" had driven him to distraction. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst on the greatest Victorian novel never written, A Woodburytype of flower sellers with their baskets, taken from 'Street Life in London' (1877), written by Adolphe Smith with photography by the Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921). 'I go about the streets with water-creases [water-cress] crying, “Four bunches a penny, water-creases”… I knows a good many games, but I don’t play at ‘em, ‘cos going out with creases tires me…I ain’t a child, and I shan’t be a woman till I’m twenty, but I’m past eight, I am' – Watercress girl. These included street vendors of fruits, flowers, fish, sundries, meals and snacks. Clothes and objects are drained of colour, restricting life to a palette of bleached and muddy greys. Order our London Labour and the London Poor Study Guide, teaching or studying London Labour and the London Poor. She is interested in the connections between literature, journalism, drama, and visual culture throughout the 19th-century, and also in London's cultural geography.
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