Reference NumberP/MIS/112
TitleManuscript of Arthur Morrison's 'A Child of the Jago', 1896, with correspondence, 1936
Date(s)1896 - 1936
Extent1 file and 1 item
AdminHistoryMorrison was born 1 November 1863 and was known for his novels and stories about working class life in the East End. His most well-known novel is A Child of the Jago.
The novel was a classic of the slum literature popular with its late Victorian readership. Readers could glimpse the coarser side of life, albeit indirectly. One citation reads 'one of those effective studies of low life in which Mr. Morrison excels' (1). He spent eighteen months living in the area, researching the novel. Old Nicol Street has acquired a literary equivalent- Old Jago Street, the neighbourhood between Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. It is central to the book's narrative, and home to a proportion of 'loafers and semi-criminals' (2), whose haunts are marked in black on the Booth Poverty Maps.

The 'child', young Dickey Perrot, falls prey to the malignant but outwardly respectable Aaron Weech, a fence. Father Sturt, whose character is based on the local parish priest Reverend Osborne Jay, counsels Dickey. The boy yearns to escape the clutches of Weech, and the constraints of the Jago, yet feels morally obliged 'not to betray even an enemy to the police' (3).

Morrison stirs his readers. One commentator describes how 'the very vilest among his vile characters are not utterly without one or two decent human qualities' (4). Post-publication, some critics question whether the novel's depiction of life on the Old Nicol was exaggerated or realistic. The socialist journal The Clarion held that the reality was even worse than shown in the book. Morrison had downplayed the facts of slum life. He did not mention how children often entered into prostitution before their teens, nor the prevalence of sickness or faction fights. Other contemporary writers gave a truer picture of slum life than was found in Morrison's book (5).

Further information about the ministry of Reverend Jay is available via parish records (6). Thanks to the LCC, by 1900, the Old Nicol had been razed and rebuilt as the Boundary Estate.

Sources of information
1. 'The Origin of A Child of The Jago': p.4 in the St. James's Gazette, 2nd December 1896.
2. 'Charles Booth's Maps As A Mirror to Society' in Mapping Urban Form and Society: 3rd October 2017.
3. 'A Child of The Jago': p.706 in The Graphic, Saturday, 5th December 1896
4. 'A Child of The Jago': p.14 in the St. James's Gazette, 7th December 1896
5. 'Realism In Literature': p.2 in The Clarion, Saturday, 20th March 1897
References 1 & 3-5: British Newspaper Archive
'Arthur Morrison- A Child of The Jago (1896): Sarah Wise in
'The Jago: The Blackest Pit in London': presented by Andrew Whitehead, Radio 4,1985 - posted on YouTube, 24th April 2018.
'Inside The Skin of A Slum': Sarah Wise in The Church Times, 2nd July 2008 (online)
6. P72/TR1 Holy Trinity, Bethnal Green, Old Nicol Street, Tower Hamlets 1867-1939 (London Metropolitan Archives)

Accessioned as archive material, March 1989 (formerly L.7983)
Access StatusOpen
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