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Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Curiosities of London Life 3. The s were a time of high unemployment, and he was obliged to look for work in London and then Paris, where he was finally employed by the famous printer Firmin Didot. He returned to England to avoid the 'July Revolution'.

He was reportedly 'indefatigable in self-improvement', having only received a very modest education as a boy. He began to write articles for the burgeoning periodicals market, abandoning his earlier profession and living solely by the pen. His articles, focusing on the London poor, were a regular feature in the Leisure Hour a popular magazine, founded in although, in the fashion of the period, they were printed anonymously.

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He died in Loraine Road, Holloway, in This first collection was published in It has many parallels with both Dickens's Sketches by Boz and later journalism, as well as Henry Mayhew's famous study of the London poor, published on a few years previously. The great joy of the book is in its variety of subject matter. Some of the characters are familiar enough - crossing-sweeps, mudlarks et al.

There is, for instance, a piece about the Eastender's unlikely love of angling; the progress of a failing but 'obstinate' shop, which has been everything from a fishmonger's to a confectioner's and never made a shilling for any of its proprietors ; the 'grand army' of City clerks, who 'wield weapons proverbially thirsty, and dripping all day long with gore, both black and red'; and a marvellous description of a London Christmas in as 'commercialised' as anything we have today.

Manby Smith is particularly good on the details of daily life. He describes, for example, the advertisements for Christmas presents which perennially appear in December: Infantine appeals in gigantic type cover the hoardings. But though the window may be of plate-glass, behind which piles of the finest fruit, joints, and quarters of the best meat, a large dish of silver eels, and a portly china bowl charged with a liberal heap of minced-meat, with here and there a few pies, lie temptingly arranged upon napkins of snowy whiteness, yet there is not a chair, stool, or seat of any kind to be found within.

There are several 'underworld' pieces: In short, if you are fascinated by the social history of London and the seemingly inexhaustible variety of Victorian 'low life', then I am confident you will find this a most entertai We are always interested in hearing from our readers.

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  7. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. May 15, rjd rated it it was amazing. Interesting Portrayal As this book shows our ancestors lived in squalor.

    Curiosities of London Life

    It is too easy to romanticize the England of Dickenson. This shows an uncomfortable reality. Very interesting live account of London in the 's. Great tool for research. Mallory Richter rated it really liked it Sep 28, Shirley Cordukes rated it liked it Dec 26, Emily Brown rated it liked it May 28, Petra rated it it was amazing May 29, Kathleen carmichael rated it it was ok Mar 05, I find this a considerable understatement of the merits of this long-lost volume. You will not need to be interested in social history nor 'of London' nor 'of Victorian' nor 'of 'low life' - Not at all. Here is a picture of a bygone city in a totally transformed country a hundred and fifty years ago that in so many ways is different from our own times.

    It has no comparable technology, no comparable welfare nor health schemes and nothing like the complexity of life in a modern city. But it has "reality" in the sense developed by the modern media.


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    These are real people struggling to make a living through honest or dishonest means, surrounded by the contemptuous, the gullible and the totally uncaring people on whom they rely. Manby Smith is the central character, observing, describing, commenting, complaining, admiring, envying and displaying every emotion, just as we do when we watch so many television programmes that expose our own society.

    The reader's reaction will be sympathetic, prurient, fascinated, dismissive,credulous, contemptuous - feelings just like those when watching Big Brother, Jeremy Kyle or a Piers Morgan interview. At every section -and there are thirty nine - attentive readers will find themselves comparing their experiences of city life to that so different time. Likewise, they will question the reaction of Manby Smith to the many characters he meets to their own reaction to those they meet every day in their town or city.

    They will also not fail to recognise that, although there are many differences that make this London almost a fantasy city and a costume drama, there are as many things that have not changed. My own favourites include the music-grinder, the umbrella man, the sad trombonist,the loss of the pieman reminds me of Greggs ,Sunday trading, a different mode of advertising, the mock auction and the several pieces describing the effects of expansion on the old villages. Prepare yourself for some of the most descriptive language you'll ever read - certainly over the top - written for a more leisurely age.

    It will fill many a pause in your life when you are waiting for Godot. It also was refreshing to read how similar many things were then to how they are now.

    There are no rose tinted glasses with this book, nor the maudling sentimentality that Dickens sometimes is guilty of. I found every detail to be an accurate record of fact but written in a chatty albeit an early Victorian form of chatty friendly way. There is no judgement passed on the poor in the main, it is not patronising, in fact in many ways it is inspiring. The book was inspiring as it showed just how good most people are of finding a way if they are free to do so, but it was also deeply moving in places when you read of the suffering.

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    Curiosities of London Life by Charles Manby Smith

    Published 6 months ago. Published 9 months ago. Published 1 year ago. Published on 16 June Published on 16 May Published on 11 November Published on 17 April Published on 6 September Feedback If you need help or have a question for Customer Service, contact us. Would you like to report poor quality or formatting in this book?