Henry Mayhew (25 November 1812 – 25 July 1887) was an English social
researcher, journalist, playwright and advocate of reform. He was one
of the co-founders of the satirical and humorous magazine Punch in
1841, and was the magazine's joint-editor, with Mark Lemon, in its
early days. He is also known for his work as a social researcher,
publishing an extensive series of newspaper articles in the Morning
Chronicle that was later compiled into the book series London Labour
and the London Poor (1851), a groundbreaking and influential survey of
the city's poor.
1.1 Early life
1.2 Paris and writing
1.3 Punch magazine
1.4 Formative work
1.4.1 London Labour and the London Poor
2 How the poor reacted to London Labour and the London Poor
7 External links
He was born in London, one of seventeen children of Joshua Mayhew. He
was educated at
Westminster School before running away from his
studies to sea. He then served with the East India Company as a
midshipman on a ship bound for Calcutta. He returned after several
years, in 1829, becoming a trainee lawyer in Wales. He left this
and became a freelance journalist. He contributed to The Thief, a
readers' digest, followed quickly by editing a weekly journal –
Figaro in London. Mayhew reputedly fled his creditors and holed up at
Erwood Inn, a small public house in the village of Erwood, south
Builth Wells in Wales.
Paris and writing
In 1835 Mayhew found himself in a state of debt and, along with a
fellow writer, escaped to Paris to avoid his creditors. He spent
his time writing and in the company of other writers including William
Thackeray and Douglas Jerrold. Mayhew spent over ten years in Paris
returning to England in the 1850s whereby he was involved in several
literary adventures, mostly the writing of plays. Two of his
plays – But, However and the Wandering Minstrel – were
successful, whilst his early work Figaro in London was less
Punch magazine was co founded by Mayhew in 1841.
On 17 July 1841 Mayhew cofounded Punch magazine. At its founding the
magazine was jointly edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon. The two men
hired a group of writers and also illustrators to aid them. These
included Douglas Jerrold, Angus Reach, John Leech, Richard Doyle and
Shirley Brooks. Initially it was subtitled The London Charivari, this
being a reference to a satirical humour magazine published in France
under the title
Le Charivari (a work read often whilst Mayhew was in
Paris). Reflecting their satiric and humorous intent, the two editors
took for their name and masthead the anarchic glove puppet Mr. Punch.
Punch was an unexpected success, selling about 6,000 copies a week in
the early years. However, sales of as many as 10,000 issues a week
were required to cover all costs of the magazine. In December 1842,
the magazine was sold to Bradbury and Evans; Mayhew resigned as joint
editor, and he continued at the magazine as "suggestor in chief"
Mark Lemon reappointed as editor. Mayhew eventually severed his
connection with the magazine, writing his last article in February
1845. His brother Horace stayed on the board of Punch until his own
The Punch years gave Mayhew the opportunity to meet talented
illustrators who he later employed to work from daguerreotypes on
London Labour and the London Poor. Following Punch magazine, Mayhew
new launched Iron Times, a railway magazine. However this venture lost
Mayhew so much money that he was forced to appear in a Court of
Bankruptcy in 1846.
In 1842 Mayhew contributed to the pioneering Illustrated London News.
By this time Mayhew had become reasonably secure financially, had
settled his debts and married Jane Jerrold, the daughter of his friend
Douglas Jerrold. She lived until 1880.
London Labour and the London Poor
Main article: London Labour and the London Poor
The articles comprising
London Labour and the London Poor
London Labour and the London Poor were
initially collected into three volumes in 1851; the 1861 edition
included a fourth volume, co-written with Bracebridge Hemyng, John
Binny and Andrew Halliday, on the lives of prostitutes, thieves and
beggars. This Extra Volume took a more general and statistical
approach to its subject than Volumes 1 to 3.
Mayhew wrote in volume one: "I shall consider the whole of the
metropolitan poor under three separate phases, according as they will
work, they can't work, and they won't work". He interviewed
everyone—beggars, street-entertainers (such as
Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy men),
market traders, prostitutes, labourers, sweatshop workers, even down
to the "mudlarks" who searched the stinking mud on the banks of the
River Thames for wood, metal, rope and coal from passing ships, and
the "pure-finders" who gathered dog faeces to sell to tanners. He
described their clothes, how and where they lived, their
entertainments and customs, and made detailed estimates of the numbers
and incomes of those practising each trade. The books show how
marginal and precarious many people's lives were, in what, at that
time, was the richest city in the world.
Mayhew's richly detailed descriptions give an impression of what the
street markets of his day were like. An example from Volume 1:
'The pavement and the road are crowded with purchasers and
street-sellers. The housewife in her thick shawl, with the
market-basket on her arm, walks slowly on, stopping now to look at the
stall of caps, and now to cheapen a bunch of greens. Little boys,
holding three or four onions in their hand, creep between the people,
wriggling their way through every interstice, and asking for custom in
whining tones, as if seeking charity. Then the tumult of the thousand
different cries of the eager dealers, all shouting at the top of their
voices, at one and the same time, is almost bewildering. "So-old
again," roars one. "Chestnuts all'ot, a penny a score," bawls another.
"An 'aypenny a skin, blacking," squeaks a boy. "Buy, buy, buy, buy,
buy-- bu-u-uy!" cries the butcher. "Half-quire of paper for a penny,"
bellows the street stationer. "An 'aypenny a lot ing-uns." “Twopence
a pound grapes." “Three a penny Yarmouth bloaters." “Who'll buy a
bonnet for fourpence?" “Pick 'em out cheap here! three pair for a
halfpenny, bootlaces." “Now's your time! beautiful whelks, a penny a
lot." “Here's ha'p‘orths," shouts the perambulating confectioner.
"Come and look at 'em! here's toasters!" bellows one with a Yarmouth
bloater stuck on a toasting-fork. "Penny a lot, fine russets," calls
the apple woman: and so the Babel goes on.'
How the poor reacted to London Labour and the London Poor
Some of the London street traders did not like the way Mayhew wrote
about them. In spring/summer 1851 they established a Street Trader's
Protection Association to guard themselves against the journalist.
Mayhew was the grandfather of Audrey Mayhew Allen (b. 1870), an author
of a number of children's stories published in various periodicals,
and of Gladys in Grammarland, an imitation of Lewis Carroll's
Mayhew's work was embraced by and was an influence on the Christian
Socialists, such as Thomas Hughes, Charles Kingsley, and F. D.
Maurice. Radicals also published sizeable excerpts from the reports in
the Northern Star, the Red Republican, and other newspapers. The often
sympathetic investigations, with their immediacy and unswerving eye
for detail, offered unprecedented insights into the condition of the
Victorian poor. Alongside the earlier work of Edwin Chadwick, they are
also regarded as a decisive influence on the thinking of Charles
Mayhew's work inspired the script of director Christine Edzard's 1990
film The Fool. Mayhew has appeared as a character in television and
radio histories of Victorian London ; he was played by Timothy
West in the documentary London (2004), and
David Haig in the Afternoon
Play A Chaos of Wealth and Want (2010). In the 2012 novel Dodger by
Terry Pratchett, Mayhew and his wife appear as fictionalised versions
of themselves, and he is mentioned in the dedication.
^ Taithe (1996), p.3
^ a b Taithe (1996), p.9
^ a b c Taithe (1996), p.10
^ Taithe (1996), p.11
Archived 22 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Mayhew, Henry 1851–1861. London Labour and the London Poor.
Researched and written, variously, with J. Binny, B. Hemyng and A.
^ Münch (2017)
^ Jerrold, Yvonne. "Family Tree". Yvonne Jerrold.
Anne Humpherys (1984), Henry Mayhew, Boston/Mass.: OUP.
Mayhew, Henry, edited by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (2010). London
Labour and the London Poor. OUP. CS1 maint: Multiple names:
authors list (link)
Ole Münch (2017),
Henry Mayhew and the Street Traders of Victorian
London — A Cultural Exchange with Material Consequences, in: The
Taithe, Bertrand (1996). The Essential Mayhew: Representing and
Communicating the Poor. Rivers Oram Press.
Vlock, Deborah (2004). "Mayhew, Henry (1812–1887)". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography. London: OUP.
Yates, Edmund (1884). His Recollections and Experiences. London:
Richard Bentley and Son.
London Labour and the London Poor, Mayhew, Henry, Published in London,
1861-2. Retrieved 7 July 2010
, Punch Magazine History and FAQs
Works by or about
Henry Mayhew at Internet Archive
Henry Mayhew at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
ISNI: 0000 0001 1875 3738
BNF: cb13006366s (data)