Described as ‘a faithful Portraiture of High & Low Life’ from the West End to the East End, Pierce Egan’s comical monthly publication Life in London was one of the popular sensations of its day. The central characters – Tom, Jerry and Logic – were well-heeled young men about town, keen to see ‘a bit of life’ in the poorer districts of London. Their escapades and misadventures were largely autobiographical, being drawn from the lives of Egan himself and his illustrators, George and Robert Cruikshank and Isaac Richard.
One of the key achievements of Egan’s Life in London was using contemporary slang as the basis of its style. An East End pub is described as follows:
Every cove that put in an appearance was quite welcome, colour or country considered no obstacle… The group was motley indeed – Lascars, blacks, jack-tars, coal-heavers, dustmen, women of colour, old and young, and a sprinkling of the remnants of once fine girls, and all jigging together.
As a result of the success of Life in London, the names Tom and Jerry became proverbial for young men causing disorder, though there is no solid evidence to suggest that they influenced the creation of the cartoon cat and mouse duo of same name.
How does this relate to Charles Dickens?
Life in London may not have been a direct influence on the young Charles Dickens, but its success did help create the public taste for street talk and novel phraseology in which Dickens’s early fiction abounds.
- Article by:
- Philip Horne
- The novel 1832–1880, Crime and crime fiction, London
Dickens's Oliver Twist depicts the excitement as well as the danger surrounding the criminal underworld. Here Professor Philip Horne examines how Dickens’s portrayal of crime was influenced by public executions, contemporary criminal slang and other sensational literary works.
- Article by:
- The Gentle Author
- London, Popular culture
The Gentle Author explores Pierce Egan’s 19th-century bestseller, Life in London, in which Tom and Jerry's 'rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis' offer readers a unique glimpse into both high and low urban culture.