From Publishers Weekly
London's underworld at the turn of the 19th century was a complex, vibrant, macabre scene, teeming with high-stakes gamblers, underage pickpockets, drunkards, prostitutes and con men. According to Low, professor emeritus of English at the University of Stirling, the years 1800-1830 represented a "breathing space for the nation," a "final fling" before the advent of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne. This revised edition of a work first published in England in 1982 provides extensive excerpts from contemporary diaries, letters and memoirs. Readers familiar with Vanity Fair and Oliver Twist will find Low's portraits of society prostitutes and nine-year-old thieves mastered by sinister "fences" particularly illuminating, but all will locate something juicy or disturbing here, such as the description of the hard-drinking "resurrection-men," or body-snatchers, who exhumed fresh corpses for dissection by the age's leading surgeons. Often absorbing, the book does sometimes linger too long, as when Low dwells on various unsuccessful efforts to install a centralized police force to replace the city's dozing watchmen, or when he details the popular appeal of "Tom and Jerry," two comic rogues who dominated the day's pages and stages. But if this pair, with their underworld cant, now seem obscure, other Regency characters seem as fresh as today's newsAsuch as Mary Anne Clarke, rejected mistress of the Duke of York, who brought the nation to a standstill by testifying in Parliament about their illicit affair. 50 b&w illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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About the Author
Donald A. Low
is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Stirling.