Street Life of London
Parts of The Murder of Mary Russell take place in 1925, but much of it goes back to the mid-nineteenth century.
The Victorian era was a time of brilliant light, spectacular technological development, and enormous social development.
For the wealthy.
For the rest, it was a time of rotting teeth, foul diseases, hunger, cold, and the workhouse.
Life expectancy was in the low 40s, one in five children died before their fifth birthday, and the Thames in London stank like the sewer it was.
In 1876, the year young Clara Hudson was returning to London in The Murder of Mary Russell, photographer John Thompson set up his camera tripod and began to record the lives of common people in the capital city. He was joined by radical journalist Adolphe Smith, whose essays describe, in honest and even affectionate terms, the men and women in Thompson’s photographs. Here are the dustmen with their spavined horses, the public disinfectors, the Covent Garden labourers, baskets on head. Men carry advertising boards, men work on the decks of barges.
And the women in their many-layered clothing, their faces worn-down and older than their years, but their eyes gaze into Thompson’s big lens with dignity and strength.
And the children? They look cold and wary even in the photographs of summer.
You can read Street Life in London online, and there’s a video made from the photographs:
The Murder of Mary Russell can ordered as: