Mansions of Misery: A Biography of the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison

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9781847923028: Mansions of Misery: A Biography of the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison

For ordinary Londoners debt was part of everyday life. The poor depended on credit from shopkeepers and landlords to survive, but the better-off too were often deep in debt to finance their more comfortable, even luxurious lifestyle. When creditors lost their patience both rich and poor Londoners could be thrown into one the capital’s debtors’ prisons where they might linger for years. The most notorious of them was the Marshalsea.

In the eighteenth century, the Marshalsea became a byword for misery; in the words of one of its inmates, it was ‘hell in epitome’. In 1729 a parliamentary committee of enquiry found that prisoners had been deliberately starved to extort fees from them and that many had died of deprivation and brutality at the hands of the gaolers. In 1768 a mutiny led to an attempt to burn down the gaol.

But the prison was also a microcosm of London life, and where as its poor estinmates lived in fear of starvation, the more wealthy and better connected living in the prison’s ‘masters’ wing’ carried on as they would in the outside world, employing servants and entertaining guests — a lifestyle that was often funded again by debt. In 1824 Charles Dickens’s father was detained here and the experience deeply scarred the writer who lived in fear of debt — and a similar fate — for the rest of his life. And although the Marshalsea was demolished in the 1840s Dickens would immortalise it in his novels, most memorably in Little Dorrit.

In Mansions of Misery Jerry White, acclaimed chronicler of London life, tells the story of the Marshalsea through the life stories of those who had the bad fortune to be imprisoned there — rich and poor; men and women; spongers, fraudsters and innocents. In the process he gives us a fascinating and unforgettable slice 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. His London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People won the Wolfson History Prize in 2001 and his bestselling London in the Nineteenth Century was published to critical acclaim in 2007. His oral histories, Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block 1887-1920 (which won the Jewish Chronicle non-fiction book prize in 1980) and Campbell Bunk: the Worst Street in North London Between the Wars, were reprinted by Pimlico in 2003. 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.

Review:

"This colourful, exuberant, brilliantly detailed account by Jerry White is the latest in a long list of irreplaceable books about London." -- Simon Callow * Guardian * "[It] is searching and brimful of intriguing characters." -- John Carey * Sunday Times * "[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 * "[An] excellent, detailed book." -- Hermione Eyre * Spectator * "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 * "The way White has written this book, it is as if the Marshalsea is a microcosm of life outside the walls in the London area. He shows that there was a complete mixture of inmates, rich and poor, fraudsters and hucksters, and many other colourful characters filled the prison. I found this to be a fascinating and engaging read about a place that people often forget was a dark shadow over many lives. Jerry White has written an engaging and very readable account of life in the Marshalsea and of London during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I am sure it will be a must read for all those interested in the social history of London for many years to come" -- Paul Diggett * Nudge * "[A] colorful, exuberant, brilliantly detailed account... The latest in a long list of irreplaceable books about London" -- Simon Callow * Guaridan Weekly * "White's absorbing book is a salutary reminder of the realities of debt." -- Catherine Peters * Literary Review * "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 *

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9781847923028

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Book Description Bodley Head, 2016. Book Condition: New. Introduces us to the Marshalsea's prisoners - rich and poor; men and women; spongers, fraudsters and innocents. This book helps to 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. It gives us a cross-section of London. Num Pages: 384 pages. BIC Classification: 1DBKESL; HBJD1; HBTB; JKVP1. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 165 x 242 x 38. Weight in Grams: 784. . 2016. Hardcover. . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9781847923028

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Book Description Bodley Head. Book Condition: New. Introduces us to the Marshalsea's prisoners - rich and poor; men and women; spongers, fraudsters and innocents. This book helps to 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. It gives us a cross-section of London. Num Pages: 384 pages. BIC Classification: 1DBKESL; HBJD1; HBTB; JKVP1. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 165 x 242 x 38. Weight in Grams: 784. . 2016. Hardcover. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9781847923028

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9781847923028

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