Monday 5 May 2008

The Mysteries of London

The Mysteries of LondonTHE MYSTERIES OF LONDON

At last, after a marathon effort, and with the generous assistance of Mr. Dick Collins as co-editor, I present the world with an online edition of the first series of G.W.M. Reynolds's The Mysteries of London. A classic - arguably the classic - 'penny dreadful', or 'penny blood' (the latter phrase I think more common parlance at the time), it's well worth delving into (although reading the whole thing is something of a challenge, I confess, albeit an enjoyable one). A TV producer made the trite comment a year or two ago that 'if Dickens were alive today, he'd be writing soap opera'; this is plainly falsified by reading the likes of Mysteries which, unlike Dickens, share all the clichés of the modern soap form - cliffhanger endings, seemingly endless ongoing plot lines, characters who are not what they seem, and sex and violence, and more sex (well, relatively speaking). Published weekly, the Mysteries and its contemporaries were the popular serial fiction of the day - made for the working class, outselling respectable middle class authors by the thousands. So, steep yourself in penny blood ...

Saturday 3 May 2008

Old Bailey Online


If you missed all the press releases and newspaper articles, you might like to know that the Old Bailey Online has now loaded the contents of all trials from the Victorian Period onto its website (and a bit of extra 'contextual' stuff besides). Here's a nice one which shows what happens when you wander into side-streets with ladies of the night. Again, as always, it's the details that fascinate - who knew that mid-Victorian police stations employed "lady searchers" for more intimate inquiries into stolen goods?

40. MARY WEBSTER , stealing 1 watch, value 6l.; the goods of Thomas Maw, from his person. MR. HORRIDGE conducted the Prosecution.
THOMAS MAW . On 4th Nov. I was crossing from Cornhill to Princes-street, by the Bank, and the prisoner met me, walked by my side, and asked where I was going—I said I was going home—she asked me if I would go with her to any house—I told her I would not—I walked a little way up Coleman-street, and she proposed that I should go up a court with her on the left hand side, which I was fool enough to do, I am sorry to say—I had my left hand through her pocket hole, and she drew me closer to her, and then made a hard scream, and ran off, and I found my watch was gone—I pursued her as hard as I could—as I came out of the court I was met by a man in black, who stopped me, and asked me a question—I followed the prisoner, and saw her go into a fore court, inside some iron railings—she came out again in half a minute, and I took her into Coleman-street, and gave her in custody of a policeman.

Cross-examined by MR. COOPER. Q. How long were you with her before you went up the court? A. Not above five minutes, and not above two or three minutes in the court—she did not ask me for anything—I was to go up there for nothing—I did not take her to be a person of that description—I am married, and have a family—this is the first time I have done this—this (produced) is my watch, but the handle is off—it was fastened to this chain and to this black ribbon, which was round my neck—she did not say, "You rascal, give me a sovereign, or I will have your watch"—I told the man who stopped me of my loss—he is not here—I suppose he was an accomplice—I have never seen him since—I have not tried to look after him.

MR. HORRIDGE. Q. Did she give you time to give her any money? A. Not at all; she snatched the watch suddenly, and made a scream—when I gave her into custody, she said she had never seen me before, and did not know me at all.

FREDERICK STEPHENS (City policeman, 142). On Saturday, 4th Nov., I took the prisoner from the custody of Maw—I took her to the station—she refused to give her name and address.

Cross-examined. Q. Did not she say that she took the watch because the man did not give her some money? A. I never heard her say anything to that effect; she said that he refused to give her some drink, but nothing else—she did not say that he would neither give her drink or money, or that she held his watch till he did—she denied having the watch.

SUSAN GILL . I am searcher at Moor-lane police station. On Saturday, 4th Nov., I searched the prisoner—she resisted me—I succeeded in searching her, but did not succeed in finding anything, except 2s.—I sent for a medical man, and was present when he found a watch upon her.

THOMAS LLYOND . I am a surgeon, of No. 5, New Basinghall-street. On 4th Nov. I went to Moor-lane station to search the prisoner's person, and found this watch in her vagina.

GUILTY .* Aged 30.—Recommended to mercy by the Jury, on account of the conduct of the Prosecutor.— Confined Nine Months.