Sarah Wise

Living The Low Life

London Labour and the London Poor: A Selected Edition

By

Oxford University Press 472pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

‘A picture of life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and terrible, that readers of romances own they never read anything like to it.’ This was Thackeray in 1850, on reading Henry Mayhew’s ‘Labour & The Poor’ columns in the Morning Chronicle newspaper. City life had coerced the poor into adopting elaborate strategies for scavenging a bare living; the ingenuity of their entrepreneurship, the tenuous nature of their hold on life, their suffering and stoicism but also the regular belly-laughs of their world, tumble from every page of Mayhew’s reports, which he expanded in 1861 into a book in four volumes.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,