19TH CENTURY UNDERWORLD: Crime, Controversy and Corruption

Book number: 94787 Product format: Hardback Author: STEPHEN CARVER

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Bibliophile price £7.00
Published price £19.99

The Victorian Underworld in film and fiction is a place of twisting alleys, shrouded in fog as we "enter a world of gin spinners, sneaksmen and Covent Garden nuns, where bare-knuckled boxers slog it out for dozens of rounds, children are worth more dead than alive, and the Thames holds more bodies than the Ganges". This fascinating book takes the lid off the stereotype, showing where our ideas come from, based on real incidents such as the massacre of the Marr family on the notorious Ratcliffe Highway. The author's discussion includes speculation as to who the real murderer may have been, and his well-informed section on the Ripper murders also identifies a strong contender for the role. Bareknuckle fighting was illegal until boxing was gentrified by the Queensberry Rules, and the 19th century writer Hazlitt gave a famous account of a fight between The Gasman and his cannier opponent Bill Neale, accompanied by high-stakes betting. A best-selling Gothic Underworld writer was Harrison Ainsworth with novels such as his Jack Sheppard series, based on the short life of a real villain. Ainsworth popularised the idea of Flash, the special language used by criminals, satirised by the novelist Thackeray in Vanity Fair with expressions such as "Nuffle your clod" and "I'll bimbole the clicky in a snuffkin". Public controversy followed as to whether such books corrupted morals. Prostitution and pornography were also the subjects of moral panic and venereal disease was rampant, although some prostitutes made a profit out of the trade and married well. In the words of one, "we are pretty, we dress well, we can talk and insinuate ourselves into the hearts of men". Another abuse was the sale of dead bodies for dissection, a trade that occasionally led to murder, and in 1832 preventive legislation was passed. In 1849 Henry Mayhew began his revolutionary investigation into London's poor. 209pp, 15.9 x 23.5cm, black and white reproductions.

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ISBN 9781526707543
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