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Henry Mayhew

Henry Mayhew (25 November 1812 - 25th July 1887) was an English journalist and one of the founders of the humorous magazine Punch, and the magazine's editor for its beginning days.

He is most famous now for his newspaper articles in the Morning Chronicle, in which he carried out a survey of the poor of London.

He wrote: "I shall consider the whole of the metropolitan poor under three separate phases, according as they will work, they can't work, and they won't work."

He interviewed everyone—beggars, street-entertainers (such as Punch and Judy men), market traders, prostitutes, labourers, sweatshop workers, even down to the "mudlarks" who searched the stinking mud on the banks of the River Thames for wood, metal, rope and coal from passing ships, and the "pure-finders" who gathered dog faeces to sell to tanners. He described their clothes, how and where they lived, their entertainments and customs, and made detailed estimates of the numbers and incomes of those practicing each trade. The books make fascinating reading, showing how marginal and precarious many peoples lives were, in what, at that time, must have been the richest city in the world.

The articles were collected together in book form under the title London Labour and the London Poor. This was in three volumes in 1851: the 1861 edition included a fourth volume on the lives of prostitutes, thieves and beggars.