“One half the world does not know how the other half lives” - Days and Nights in London by J. Ewing Ritchie , p.90
This so-called ‘low’ culture is revealed in two corresponding ways: by expressing lives and experiences often hidden from view and by doing so via often ephemeral print sources such as broadsides, adverts and ballads. As a result, in addition to highlighting 19th century social history, politics and literature, those interested in the century’s print culture will also find much of value.
The speed and change within the printing trade allowed the development of forms such as fast guides for men-about-town, and cheap fiction, an example of which is A Story of the Argyll Rooms: Told by One Who Has Fallen published by a company called the London Novelty Stores. This latter tale relates, over a mere seven pages complete with illustrations, the fall from grace of an abandoned young woman.
Much of the material on London Low Life is illustrated and some of it is brightly coloured, such as the chapbook called Dreamer’s Oracle. The broadsides and ballads, meanwhile, shed light on interpretations of invariably “horrid” murders, arrests and executions, the revelation of secret affairs and other salacious news events of the period as told and sold on the streets of London.