Henry Philip Mayhew

1812-1887

Henry Philip Mayhew was one of 17 children born to a London solicitor, and attended the same school as Thomas Arnold, Matthew's father. He ran away from school and went to sea before apprenticing with his father. Although Mayhew later had a falling out with his father over his rejection of bourgeois values, he remained financially dependent upon him into his thirties, while writing in numerous genres including drama trying to support himself. He founded and briefly edited Punch. Mayhew went bankrupt in 1846, but continued to work as a writer.

In 1849 he became the London correspondent for the Morning Chronicle and began writing and editing a vast survey of the working class and poor of the city, published first in 82 serial installments in the form of letters to the Chronicle and in 1851 in volume form as London Labour and the London Poor. His method of quoting his interviewees at length and apparently in their own words produced an evocative survey of the London underclasses and one of the first pieces of documentary journalism.

TEXTS:

London Labour and the London Poor (1851, 1861-62)

From Volume I: The Street-Folk: on Wandering Tribes; on Costermongers
Illustration of a Costermonger
Volume IV: Those Who Will Not Work: From the Introduction and the Classification of the Workers and Non-Workers of Great Britain, by Henry Mayhew
Volume IV: Those Who Will Not Work: on Prostitution in London , by Bracebridge Hemyng Illustration of the Haymarket

Further Reading

More Mayhew : On Beggars and Cheats