Writing the Underworld: Works Cited, Notes & Appendix


Manuscript Sources

Ainsworth, William Harrison. Autograph letters of W.H. Ainsworth to James Crossley. 11 vols. Archives Section. Local Studies Unit, Central Library, Manchester. (Accessed between June and September 1997.)

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, January 1, 1839.

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, March 25, 1838.

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, May 29, 1837.

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, November 19, 1839.

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, November 5, 1837.

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, October 8, 1839.

Ainsworth, letter to Crossley, September 6, 1838.

Ainsworth, letter to G.B. Davidge, October 18, 1839.

Ainsworth, letter to The Times, July 7, 1840.

Printed Sources

Ainsworth, Crichton (1837). The Original Illustrated Edition of the Novels of William Harrison Ainsworth, (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1881).

Ainsworth, Jack Sheppard. (1839). (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1881).

Ainsworth, Rookwood. (1834). (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1881).

Allen, Rick, The Moving Pageant: A Literary Sourcebook on London Street-Life, 1700-1914 (London: Routledge, 1998).

Altick, Richard D. Victorian Studies in Scarlet: Murders and Manners in the Age of Victoria. (London: Norton, 1970).

Anon.  ‘Jack Sheppard: a Romance.’ Review. Athenaeum, October 26 1839.

Anon. Review of Jack Sheppard at the Adelphi. Standard, October 29, 1839.

Anon.‘William Ainsworth and Jack Sheppard.’ Fraser’s, February, 1840

Blanchard, Samuel Laman. ‘Memoir of William Harrison Ainsworth.’ TheMirror (1842). In W.H. Ainsworth, Rookwood (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1898).

Bloom, Clive. Cult Fiction: Popular Reading and Pulp Theory (London: Macmillan, 1996).

Booth, Michael R., English Melodrama (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1965).

Collins, Philip, Dickens and Crime (London: Macmillan, 1965).

Defoe, Daniel. The True and Genuine Account of The Life and Actions of The Late Jonathan Wild, Not made up of fiction and fable, but taken from his own mouth, and collected from papers of his own writing (London: John Applebee, 1725).

—. The History of the remarkable Life of John Sheppard, containing A particular account of his many Robberies and Escapes (London: John Applebee, 1724).

Dickens, Oliver Twist. Collected Works. (London: Odhams, 1897).

—. Sketches by ‘Boz’ (1836), Collected Works. (London: Odhams, 1897).

Egan, Pierce, Life in London or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, ESQ. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis (1821). (London: John Camden Hotten, 1869).

Ellis, S.M. William Harrison Ainsworth and His Friends, 2 vols (London: John Lane, 1911).

Forster, John. The Life of Charles Dickens (1872). London: Cecil Palmer 1928.

—. Review of Jack Sheppard. Examiner, November 3, 1839.

—. Literary Editorial. Examiner, June 28, 1840.

Friswell, J. Hain. Modern Men of Letters, Honestly Criticised (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1870).

Gatrell, V.A.C. The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770 – 1868(Oxford: OUP, 1994).

Hollingsworth, Keith, The Newgate Novel 1830-47: Bulwer, Ainsworth, Dickens and Thackeray (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1963).

Horne, Richard Hengist. A New Spirit of the Age, 2 vols (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1844).

House, Humphry. The Dickens World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960).

James, Louis, Fiction for the Working Man 1830-50 (London: Penguin, 1973).

Low, Donald A. The Regency Underworld (London: J.M. Dent, 1982).

Mackay, Charles. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds. 2nd. Ed. London: National Illustrated Library, 1852.

Mayhew, Henry, London Labour and the London Poor, Victor Neuburg (ed.) (London: Penguin, 1985).

Moore, Lucy. The Thieves’ Opera (London: Penguin, 1997)

Nord, Deborah Epstein. Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation and the City (London: Cornell University Press, 1995)

Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950).

Paulson, Ronald ed. (1965). Hogarth’s Graphical Works New Haven: Yale University Press.

Pawling Christopher ed. Popular Fiction and Social Change (London: Macmillan, 1984)

Rawlings, Philip. Drunks, Whores and Idle Apprentices, Criminal biographies of the eighteenth century (London: Routledge, 1992).

Thackeray, William Makepeace. Catherine, A Story (1840) Collected Works. (London: Caxton, 1920).

—. ‘Catherine, A Story.’ Fraser’s Magazine, February 1840.

—. ‘George Cruikshank.’ Westminster Review, June 1840.

—. ‘Going to see a man hanged’, Fraser’s, August, 1840.

—. Review of the Works of Henry Fielding, The Times, September 2 1840.

—. Vanity Fair (1848). (London: Collins, 1949)

—. The History of Pendennis (1850) Collected Works.

Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class (London: Pelican, 1968)

Tobias, John J. Prince of Fences: The Life and Crimes of Ikey Solomons (London: Valentine, 1974).

Uglow, Jenny. Hogarth (London: Faber and Faber, 1998)

Walkowitz, Judith R. The City of Dreadful Delight (London: Virago, 1992-4)

Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (London: Penguin, 1963)

Worth, George J., William Harrison Ainsworth (New York: Twayne, 1972).


  1. In a corresponding episode in Jack Sheppard, Thames has copies of the ballads ‘St. George for England and True Protestant Gratitude, or Britain’s Thanksgiving for the First of August, being the Day of His Majesty’s Happy Accession to the Throne’ pasted to the wall, while Jack has ‘The Thief Catcher’s Prophecy’ and ‘Life and Death of the Darkman’s Budge’. Ainsworth, Jack Sheppard, A Romance (1839), Works, 58-9. Thames’s Orange commitment to his religion reminds the attentive reader that the original John Sheppard was reported to be a Catholic, placing him doubly beyond the pale as both thief and idolater.
  2. See Jenny Uglow, Hogarth (London: Faber and Faber, 1998), chapter 5.
  3. A Narrative of All the Robberies, Escapes, etc. of John Sheppard, (London: John Applebee, 1724). Sensing the market, Applebee had also published The History of the remarkable Life of John Sheppard, containing A particular account of his many Robberies and Escapes (London: John Applebee, 1724) directly after Sheppard’s first escape from Newgate. Both these pamphlets have been attributed to Defoe although there is no real supporting evidence that the two men even knew one another. In a recent biography of Jack Sheppard, the author puts Defoe and Applebee at the execution, with a hearse standing by to whisk Sheppard’s corpse away for resuscitation, a factoid of which I am more than a little sceptical. Lucy Moore, The Thieves’ Opera (London: Penguin, 1997), 224.
  4. Daniel Defoe, The True and Genuine Account of The Life and Actions of The Late Jonathan Wild, Not made up of fiction and fable, but taken from his own mouth, and collected from papers of his own writing (London: John Applebee, 1725).
  5. Another flash term for hanging was ‘The dance without music’, referring to the spastic death throes of the victim. See Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of the Underworld (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950). Like Pierce Egan, Ainsworth got his slang from ‘A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language’, which was appended to James Hardy Vaux’s Memoirs of a Transport (London, 1819), a book now considered to be one of the earliest works of Australian literature.
  6. ‘The Hospital Patient’ dies pathetically, hoping that, ‘God almighty will forgive me all the wrong I have done, and the life I have led’, and wishing that she ‘had died a child’. Dickens, Sketches by Boz (1836), Works, 155.
  7.  ‘And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.’
  8. ‘For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.’
  9. J.T. Smith, Keeper of Prints in the British Museum, coined this term for his book, Vagabondiana, or The Anecdotes of Mendicant Wanderers through the Streets of London, with Portraits of the Most Remarkable (London, 1817).
  10. This invites the Discipline and Punish interpretations that many disciples of Michel Foucault and followers of Hollingsworth have tended to impose upon the Newgate novel. See, for example, Juliet John, introduction, Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels, 1830-1847, 8 vols (London: Routledge, 1998).
  11. See Chapter One of this present work.
  12. See Roger Sales, ‘Pierce Egan and the Representation of London’,Reviewing Romanticism, ed. Philip Martin and Robin Jarvis (London, Macmillan, 1992).
  13. Wild is presented as a satanic figure throughout the narrative: ‘If I am the devil’, observed Wild, ‘as some folks assert, and I myself am not unwilling to believe, you’ll find that I differ from the generally received notions of the archfiend, and faithfully execute the commands of those who confide their souls to my custody.’ (Ainsworth, Jack Sheppard 107).
  14. Pitt put Sweeney Todd on the stage for the first time at the Britannia Saloon, Hoxton in The String of Pearls, or: The Fiend of Fleet Street in 1842. Pitt also produced a version of Rookwood at the Victoria Theatre in 1845.
  15. See Chapter One of this present work.
  1. This is all true (see Ellis, Uglow and Moore), although these illustrious visitors did not all turn up at once. Thornhill was Serjeant Painter to George I, and the king ordered two studies of Sheppard to be made. Thornhill’s portrait of Sheppard has not survived, but we do have a mezzotint engraving taken from the original by G. White.
  2. The best study by far of this period remains Hollingsworth’s, but John Springhall’s recent book, Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics (London: Routledge, 1998) is interesting in its examination of the cyclical nature of moral panics in Britain and America from the early Victorians to date.
  3. See John J. Tobias, Prince of Fences: The Life and Crimes of Ikey Solomons(London: Valentine, 1974).
  4. This is a reference to Lytton’s novel Earnest Maltravers (1837).
  1. ‘William Ainsworth and Jack Sheppard,’ Fraser’s, February 1840, probably also written by Thackeray. The concluding critical remarks from Catherineare usually absent from the complete works but are appended to the present work.
  2. Samuel Laman Blanchard, ‘Memoir of William Harrison Ainsworth’, originally written for The Mirror in 1842 but often prefixed to Rookwood.
  3. A representative bit of flash dialogue from Jack Sheppard can be picked at random. For example: ‘“Jigger closed!” shouted a hoarse voice in reply. “All’s bowman, my covey. Fear nothing. We’ll be upon the bandogs before they can shake their trotters!”’ (Ainsworth, Jack Sheppard 17).


The original conclusion of Catherine by Thackeray

This long diatribe against Dickens and Ainsworth preceded the final paragraph of Thackeray’s original ‘Catherine, A Story’ in Fraser’s Magazine. It is not included in subsequent editions of Catherine in book form or in Thackeray’s collected works.

To begin with Mr. Dickens. No man has read that remarkable tale of Oliver Twist without being interested in poor Nancy and her murderer; and especially amused and tickled by the gambols of the Artful Dodger and his companions. The power of the writer is so amazing, that the reader at once becomes his captive, and must follow him whithersoever he leads; and to what are we led? Breathless to watch all the crimes of Fagin, tenderly to deplore the errors of Nancy, to have for Bill Sikes a kind of pity and admiration, and an absolute love for the society of the Dodger. All these heroes stepped from the novel on to the stage; and the whole London public, from peers to chimney-sweeps, were interested about a set of ruffians whose occupations are thievery, murder, and prostitution. A most agreeable set of rascals, indeed, who have their virtues, too, but not good company for any man. We had better pass them by in decent silence; for, as no writer can or dare tell the whole truth concerning them, and faithfully explain their vices, there is no need to give ex-partestatements of their virtue.

And what came of Oliver Twist? The public wanted something more extravagant still, more sympathy for thieves, and so Jack Sheppard makes his appearance. Jack and his two wives, and his faithful Blueskin, and his gin-drinking mother, that sweet Magdalen! – with what a wonderful gravity are all their adventures related, with what an honest simplicity and vigour does Jack’s biographer record his actions and virtues! We are taught to hate Wild, to be sure; but then it is because he betrays thieves, the rogue! And yet bad, ludicrous, monstrous as the idea of this book is, we read and read, and are interested, too. The author has a wondrous faith, and a most respectful notion of the vastness of his subject. There is not one particle of banter in his composition; good and bad ideas, he hatches all with the same gravity; and is just as earnest in his fine description of the storm on the Thames, and his admirable account of the escape from Newgate; as in the scenes at Whitefriars, and the conversations at Wild’s, than which nothing was ever written more curiously unnatural. We are not, however, here criticizing the novels, but simply have to speak of the Newgate part of them, which gives birth to something a great deal worse than bad taste, and familiarises the public with notions of crime. In the dreadful satire of Jonathan Wild, no reader is so dull as to make the mistake of admiring, and can overlook the grand and hearty contempt of the author for the character he has described; the bitter wit of the Beggar’s Opera, too, hits the great, by shewing their similarity with the wretches that figure in the play; and though the latter piece is so brilliant in its mask of gaiety and wit, that a very dull person may not see the dismal reality thus disguised, moral, at least, there is in the satire, for those who will take the trouble to find it. But in the sorrows of Nancy and the exploits of Sheppard, there is no such lurking moral, as far as we have been able to discover; we are asked for downright sympathy in the one case, and are called on in the second to admire the gallantry of a thief. The street-walker may be a virtuous person, and the robber as brave as Wellington; but it is better to leave them alone, and their qualities, good and bad. The pathos of the workhouse scenes inOliver Twist, or the Fleet prison descriptions in Pickwick, is genuine and pure as much of this as you please; as tender a hand to the poor, as kindly a word to the unhappy as you will; but in the name of common sense, let us not expend our sympathies on cut-throats, and other such prodigies of evil! (Thackeray, Fraser’s 1840).