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Poverty in Victorian London

November Effigies

People say these images of devastating poverty on London’s streets look like stepping out of the pages of a Charles Dickens book. But why can’t we find dignity in the poor?

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November Effigies: A street vendor living in the south-east of London has decided that he must go all out to fund a homemade ‘guy’ for Bonfire Night. Dressed in women’s clothing, literally drumming business, and assisted by a pair of delighted boys, the sight is not one met with good humour by Johnson, who writes: ‘This meaningless monstrosity, together with the absurd appearance of the man in woman’s clothes, amuses some persons, and the conductor of such an exhibition can hope to realise about thirty shillings the first day’

These pictures of Dickensian poverty on the streets of London show the grim reality of life in Victorian Britain.

The astonishing photographs, captured by photojournalist John Thomson in 1877, shows the backbreaking daily grind which was a reality for the capital’s working class.

Thomson teamed up with radical journalist Adolphe Smith on the groundbreaking project – the first to focus on working class people.

Impoverished flower sellers, road sweeps and a miserable-looking home for convicts are frozen in time in the hard-hitting collection.

A little boy, John Day, is photographed with his chimney sweep father – who sent him out to work young as he was addicted to drink and wanted beer money.

The images, compiled into a book called Street Life In London, go under the hammer on Thursday at Dominic Winter auctioneers, Gloucs.

John Trevers, a valuer and auctioneer at Dominic Winter, said: “The book is famous in the sense it is one of the first social documentations shown in photographs.

“Rather than photographs of the Royal Family or of pretty parks, this is real people at the bottom of society.

“It was around the same period as Charles Dickens was exposing the underclass and it must have been shocking to see the photographs at the time.

“One of the photographs shows a lady who looks very ill, she was dying.

‘It really shows a grim London life and must have been very hard-hitting, this is a very important book.”

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The faces of Victorian London: A 'temperance sweep' (left) featured in the Street Life in London book on auction at Dominic Winter Auctions, South Cerney, Gloucestershire

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This entry was posted on November 7, 2013 by in 【Anti-Orientalism 】.
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