Popular publishing flourished through the 19th century to entertain the rapidly growing, and increasingly literate, urban working classes. The fast-expanding city of London was a frequent setting for lurid low-life tales, as it had been since Ned Ward’s (d. 1731) The London Spy of 1703.
Pierce Egan’s (1772–1849) Life in London starting in July 1821 was a monthly publication, costing a shilling, and illustrated by the leading satirical artist of the day George Cruikshank (1792–1878).
Subtitled The day and night scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom in their rambles and sprees through the metropolis, it followed the high- and low-life adventures of three young men: Tom, wealthy, confident and tasteful; Jerry, son of a wealthy country squire; and Bob Logic, a friend of Tom’s from Oxford more in search of a good time than education. The series was an instant success and spawned many imitations and even several plays. In 1829 Egan wrote this volume, evidently to finish off his comic creations once and for all. The fact that it was being reprinted in 1871 shows how enduring his characters were.
Egan’s creation inspired George Smeeton’s (d. 1828) Doings in London of 1828, a fictionalised collection of scams and scandal rife in the city.