You might have noticed that this blog has gone a little quiet lately, though if you’re interested I recently did a piece on the ghost stories of Oliver Onions for Wordsworth Editions which you can find here. Anyway, I’m still around, but not posting right now because I’m currently working on this project for Pen and Sword. Please watch this space for further details, and thank you all, as ever, for your interest and support.
THE 19th CENTURY UNDERWORLD
A Corinthian’s Guide to The Modern Babylon
Underworld n. 1. the part of society comprising those who live by organised crime and immorality. 2. the mythical abode of the dead under the earth.
Take a walk on the dark side of the street in this unique exploration of the fears and desires at the heart of the British Empire, from the Regency dandy’s playground to the grim and gothic labyrinths of the Victorian city. 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 is the Modern Babylon, a place of brutal poverty, violent crime, drugs, pornography and prostitution; of low neighbourhoods and crooked houses with windows out like broken teeth, wraithlike urchins with haunted eyes, desperate, ruthless and vicious men, and the broken remnants of once fine girls: a grey, bleak, infernal place, where gaslights fail to pierce the pestilential fog, and coppers travel in pairs, if they venture there at all.
Combining the accessibility of a popular history with original research, this book brings the denizens of this vanished world once more to life, along with the voices of those who sought to exploit, imprison or save them, or to simply report back from this alien landscape that both fascinated and appalled: the politicians, the reformers, the journalists and, above all, the storytellers, from literary novelists to purveyors of penny dreadfuls. Welcome to the 19th century underworld…