London Labour and the London Poor
Henry Mayhew’s (1812-1887) London Labour and the London Poor (1851), chronicles every aspect of the lives of the poor working classes of London. Especially poignant are Mayhew’s descriptions of the lives of the street children. He writes of the reasons for their being on the streets ‘through neglect… viciousness…from utter destitution’; their money-making ventures as crossing sweepers, errand runners and street sellers; their clothing and appearance; their diet, religion, education and morals. He describes how the children often drank a penny’s worth of gin ‘to keep the cold out’ and how they learned the ‘grossest immorality’ and ‘obscene expressions’ from adults.
[The Boy Crossing-Sweepers. Plate no. 47, facing page 178, from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor. Volume II.]
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