What About Charles Dickens?

I like Charles Dickens. No, really. Granted, I have to be in the mood for him–all those run-on sentences, you know? But I do like him, and that’s because he tells it like it is (was). I’ve read any number of books romanticizing Victorian London. Perhaps that’s because the stories were told from a certain point of view. The reality, though, is that Victorian London was a horrible place to live unless you were among the elite and could disappear to your country estate, or at the very least, middle class. The poor? Forget it. Children as young as six sent to work in the factories, usually in jobs that were so dangerous it would make your eyes bug. How would you like to have a job where you had to squirm between the jaws of these giant looms to clean the bits of cotton that had gotten stuck in the teeth? Horrific injuries were the norm, as it was for all factory workers. And their pay was a pittance. If they were lucky, enough of the family worked so they could at least afford to keep a roof over their heads, and some food in their bellies.

Being in service wasn’t necessarily too bad–the pay was better, at any rate. Better to be a live-out servant than a live-in, though. Live-ins were at the beck and call of the family 24/7. And accommodations might not be all that great if your family was cheap. Like your quarters might have little heat. Still, you’d have a clean bed without bugs, and a roof that didn’t leak.

Orphaned children had it the worst, though. The orphanages were atrocious. Underfed and abused, like suffering beatings by staff and by other children. And you can’t tell me there wasn’t a little buggery going on, either. No wonder children ran away–it was for their own survival. And then to be picked up and forced to join gangs run by adults for thievery, breaking and entering, you name it. Little thugs. Or maybe being picked up and forced into prostitution. Girls and boys. At least they had drugs to numb their painful lives–sometimes.

You couldn’t have paid me to live in Victorian London.

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