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Mansions of Misery
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Selected as a Book of the Year by BBC History Magazine For Londoners of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, debt was a part of everyday life. But when your creditors lost their patience, you might be thrown into one of the capital's most notorious jails- the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison. The Marshalsea became a byword for misery; in the words of one of its inmates, it was 'hell in epitome'. But the prison was also a microcosm of London life and it housed a colourful range of characters, including Charles Dickens's father. The experience haunted the writer, who went on to immortalise the Marshalsea in his work, most memorably in Little Dorrit. In Mansions of Misery, acclaimed chronicler of the capital Jerry White introduces us to the Marshalsea's unfortunate prisoners - rich and poor; men and women; spongers, fraudsters and innocents. We get to know the trumpeter John Grano who wined and dined with the prison governor and continued to compose music whilst other prisoners were tortured and starved to death. We meet the bare-knuckle fighter known as the Bold Smuggler, who fell on hard times after being beaten by the Chelsea Snob. And then there's Joshua Reeve Lowe, who saved Queen Victoria from assassination in Hyde Park in 1820, but whose heroism couldn't save him from the Marshalsea. Told through these extraordinary lives, Mansions of Misery gives us a fascinating and unforgettable cross-section of London life from the early 1700s to the 1840s.
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About the Author

Professor Jerry White teaches London history at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of an acclaimed trilogy of London from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. His most recent book is Zeppelin Nights, a social history of London during the First World War. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by the University of London in 2005 and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Reviews

"This colourful, exuberant, brilliantly detailed account by Jerry White is the latest in a long list of irreplaceable books about London." -- Simon Callow Guardian "[A] marvellous history of the Marshalsea Debtor's Prison... In vivid prose White conjures a murky underworld of jailbird chancers and scufflers of one stripe or another." -- Ian Thomson Evening Standard - London Books of the Year "A factual portrait of desperate and roughish Londoners that is as startling as anything in Dickens. Its wealth of anecdote and sympathetic style, spiced with witty observations makes this the very opposite of a miserable read." -- George Goodwin BBC History Magazine, Book of the Year "Fascinating." The Times "[A] riveting, richly researched account." Times Literary Supplement "[An] excellent, detailed book." -- Hermione Eyre Spectator "White's absorbing book is a salutary reminder of the realities of debt." -- Catherine Peters Literary Review "[It] is searching and brimful of intriguing characters." -- John Carey Sunday Times "This is a splendid book providing a vivid image of the Hanoverian and early Victorian worlds, of their societies and, particularly, of a cross-section of people living on the edge." -- Clive Emsley BBC History Magazine "[A] colorful, exuberant, brilliantly detailed account... The latest in a long list of irreplaceable books about London" -- Simon Callow Guaridan Weekly

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