Mysteries of London

 G. W. M. Reynolds  (July 23, 1814 – June 19, 1879) is not as famous today as Dickens or Thackery, but during his lifetime, he was arguably more popular. His serial The Mysteries of London (1844), sold 40,000 copies a week in installments known as “penny dreadfuls” before it was issued in bound volumes.

Wikipedia tells us, “The Mysteries of London and its sequel The Mysteries of the Court of London are among the seminal works of the Victorian ‘urban mysteries’ genre, a style of sensational fiction which adapted elements of the Gothic novel – with its haunted castles, innocent noble damsels in distress and nefarious villains – to produce stories which instead focussed on the shocks of life after the Industrial Revolution: the poverty, crime, and violence of a great metropolis, complete with detailed and often sympathetic descriptions of the lives of lower-class lawbreakers and extensive glossaries of thieves’ cant, all interwoven with a frank sexuality not usually found in popular fiction of the time. Although Reynolds was unusual in his religious skepticism (one of the main characters in The Mysteries of London was a clergyman turned libertine) and political radicalism, his tales were aimed squarely at the tastes of his mostly middle- and lower-class audience; they featured hump-backed dwarves, harridans and grave-robbers who groped past against a background of workhouses, jails, execution yards, thieves’ kitchens and cemeteries.”

You can read the entire text of Mysteries of London at the Victorian London web site.

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