This lively and beautifully illustrated pocketbook aims to teach the unwary traveller the means and methods used by London thieves and con-men to trick the unwary out of cash or valuables. It also allowed the genteel metropolitan reader to pretend to be more familiar with criminal customs than perhaps he or she actually was.
The book deals with types of criminal under a number of headings, some familiar today (‘Kidnappers’) and some (‘Setters’) long since passed into obsolescence. (A setter was generally a poor but well-dressed man who would alight upon a rich country lady and so bamboozle her that she would agree to his more or less immediate proposal of marriage.) Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1938) is notable for its romantic view of such predators and their depredations. At the same time, it was also notable for suggesting a direct link between material poverty and crime – a view that some critics deplored on the basis that it seemed to remove independent moral agency from criminals.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- London, Poverty and the working classes, Gender and sexuality
What was the place of prostitution in 19th-century society? Judith Flanders looks at documents and publications that provide an insight into attitudes towards the profession.
- 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.