The Poor Boys of London was a 41-part serialised novel, in which the author attempted to show how poverty and bad company tend to corrupt young boys. It was written and published by William Emmet Laurence, who would soon go on to publish the weekly magazines The Young Gentlemen of Britain and The Young Ladies of Great Britain. Almost nothing is known about Laurence aside from his publishing ventures, which, as the titles above hint strongly, were generally intended to morally improve the young people of Britain and ward them away from bad behaviour and bad people.
The Poor Boys of London is generally classed as a ‘penny dreadful’, in that it told lurid tales of criminality, in serial form, for a penny a week. It was one of the first such works, however, to be aimed directly at a young audience. The penny dreadfuls of previous decades had been aimed squarely at the grown-up (and growing) urban commuter class, but from the mid-1860s onwards publishers and writers alike recognised that a new market was developing: adolescent boys and girls.