This, the first critical biography of Arthur Morrison (1863-1945), presents his East End writing as the counter-myth to the cultural production of the East End in late-Victorian realism. Morrison’s works, particularly Tales of Mean Streets (1894) and A Child of the Jago (1896), are often discussed as epitomes of slum fictions of the 1890s as well as prime examples of nineteenth-century realism, but their complex contemporary reception reveals the intricate paradoxes involved in representing the turn-of-the-century city.
Arthur Morrison and the East End examines how an understanding of the East End in the Victorian cultural imagination operates in Morrison’s own writing. Engaging with the contemporary vogue for slum fiction, Morrison redressed accounts written by outsiders, positioning himself as uniquely knowledgeable about a place considered unknowable. His work provides a vigorous challenge to the fictionalised East End created by his predecessors, whilst also paying homage to Charles Dickens, George Gissing, Walter Besant and Guy de Maupassant. Examining the London sites which Morrison lived in and wrote about, this book is an excursion not into the Victorian East End, but into the fictions constructed around it.
Table of Contents
I. Arthur Morrison (1863-1945): An East End Writer
II. ‘The Pure Fame of the Place’: The Unreal Victorian Slum
III. ‘Who Knows Arthur Morrison?’
IV. The Problem of Realism: Whose Reality is it Anyway?
V. The Legacy of Slum Fictions
Chapter 1. Poplar and Ratcliff
I. Arthur Morrison: ‘Another Coming Man.’
II. ‘The Scenes of his Wondering Childhood’: 1863-1887
III. On Being Ministered To: ‘A Grateful People’
IV. In Darkest Dockland and the Way Out
Chapter 2. Whitechapel
I. Writing the Victorian East End
II. ‘Cockney Corners’: Sketches of the East End
III. Sketches of Whitechapel, 1872-1889
Chapter 3. Mile End
I. The People’s Palace: A ‘possibility, a certainty and a fact.’
II. At the Palace, Looking West.
III. From Mile End to The Strand.
IV. ‘Henley’s Regatta’
V. The Pursuit of Happiness
Chapter 4. Limehouse and Stratford
I. ‘A Street’ and the reappraisal of the Slum
II. Behind the Doors: Dangerous Domesticity
III. ‘Behind the Shade’: Gossip and the Silenced
IV. Regions of Strange Order
V. Becoming ‘them’: The Reception of Tales
Chapter 5. Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and the ‘Jago’
I. Father Jay and the Nichol Slum in fiction
II. Creative reconstruction: Morrison’s ‘Jago’ and the Boundary Street Scheme
Chapter 6. Blackwall and the Docks
I. Repenting for Realism
II. Landscapes of the Mind: Epping and Blackwall in To London Town (1899).
III. ‘Romance and squalor’: The Hole in the Wall (1902).
Chapter 7. Return to the East End
I. ‘I foresaw a story’: The Bathos of the Journalist-Narrator in Divers Vanities (1905).
II. Heads and Tales: London and Elsewhere
III. ‘I knew the place, indeed’: Return to the Mean Streets
IV. The inescapable Jago: Literary Hauntings
V. ‘The Story that I am to Tell Again’: Folk Realism
I. ‘My Own Country’: Rewriting the East End
II. The Duty of the Respectable: the Self-Made man of letters
III. ‘Another Way Out’: "The Farthest East"
IV. Afterwords: ‘To correct your recollections…’
V. ‘Well now, Arthur Morrison, how to put into words?’
Eliza Cubitt received her BA and MA from King’s College London, and was awarded a PhD from UCL in 2016. She has published work on Morrison, W. Somerset Maugham and Margaret Harkness. She has taught at UCL and at Universität Tübingen, Germany. Since 2014, she has been a committee member of the Literary London Society.