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Picturing a World

Mayhew's street sellers

Blog post alert: Henry Mayhew's Street Traders reproduces a few of the engravings in London Labour and the London Poor of men and women who made a living on the streets in the Victorian era and quotes the text that accompanies each. The passage that accompanies this picture, for instance, begins, "I am a seller of birds'-nesties, snakes, slow-worms, adders, "effets"–lizards is their common name–hedgehogs (for killing black beetles), frogs (for the French – they eats 'em), and snails (for birds) – that's all I sell in the Summertime."

It goes on into some detail of the trade. Mayhew is indispensable for Victorian scholars and historical novelists alike, but fantasists can use him, too. I mean, selling birds' nests, snakes, and efts—and maybe wyvern skins? Who could have imagined such a trade? And who can resist using it once you know?

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