Henry Mayhew’s elements on “London Labour and the London Poor”.

Mayhew conveys both elements of the Enlightenment and Romanticism by the concrete evidence of other people that he interviews with and talks about their experiences through their narratives as well. An element of the enlightenment is the sense that commerce is the way to go with society.An instance of this is with the narrative of the “watercress girl” who learnt at a young age that the only way to prevent feeling starved and having food and clothes is selling” water creases” for “four bunches a penny”(1109). She represents how much of a working class is brought up to be and how the majority of them would be put out of school to work and provide for their family. This type of thinking is not supposed be for children at her age, where Mayhew retorts the mindset of this particular girl to be “a women” and that demonstrates how much of an effect that the industrialization had on the city and even on those who are selling goods to help their families(1108). This could also suggest that Mayhew is trying to show how humanity is lost with them as the rise to industrial factories and shops. He expresses the conditions of the slums where the children are living to notify the downfall that society has been trying to hide. Mayhew uses the accounts of two narratives of children to express how drastic and inhumane their conditions are to society that is lacking in fixing it. One instance of this is when he describes the boy on the street to be ” curled round almost as closely as those of a cat on a hearth” and how that exemplifies the conditions of living on the street to be one of great disdain and unhealthy as well (1111). Another account of the girl where Mayhew describes meeting her to be “cruelly pathetic in hearing this infant, so young that her features had scarcely formed themselves” to show innocent children are to be and are forced to learn about the ways to provide for their family that is brutally driven by the association of their social class(1108)These experiences show how much of an health hazard this is to any individual especially for children who are more prone to illnesses than adults. Mayhew exemplifies his accounts to have both elements of  Enlightenment and Romanticism in his narrative through children.

London Labour and the London Poor

Henry Mayhew employs both aspects of the Enlightenment and Romanticism in his book London Labour and the London Poor in order to get his message across to a broader range of people during this time of transition in England. When he relays the accounts of the two children in these selections, he is using the reasoning aspect of the Enlightenment as well as self-value as an economic unit; they way they tell their stories is very matter-of-fact and even detached at times, and they seem to primarily be concerned with making money. For example, after describing her obviously difficult lifestyle, the watercress girl tells Mayhew that she “never see[s] any children crying” because “it’s no use” (1109). She does not feel sorry for herself, as she sees her way of life as the only one there is for her because she has “a living and vittals to earn” (1110-11). Another example of this is when Jack tells Mayhew that when they shovel snow, it “gives [them] chilblains on [their] feet; but they don’t mind it when [they’re] working” (1113). Not only is he detached as well, but he is finding value as an economic unit. He does not mind getting frostbite if he is making money.

Mayhew also utilizes the Romantic aspect of emotion throughout these selections when he tells background information about the children, like how they were when he came upon them. For example, he describes the watercress girl as a “poor child” dressed in a “thin cotton gown” and “carpet slippers” in severe, cold weather (1109). The imagery he uses here is meant to incite pity in the readers. When Mayhew happens upon Jack, he describes him as “his legs and body being curled round almost as closely as those of a cat on a hearth” as he was settling down to go to sleep in a corner (1111). He goes on to tell how Jack hopped to his feet as soon as he saw Mayhew, asking him to “‘give a half-penny to poor little Jack'” (1111). The repetition of the word “poor” with both these children emphasizes their sad, lowly conditions and evokes sympathy in the reader. Mayhew sets readers up to feel emotional and then relays the children’s matter-of-fact stories in order to best get his point across.

London Labour and the London Poor

Henry Mayhew tells the stories of two children in  “London Labour and the London Poor” and the harsh conditions they faced. In this he uses elements of both the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Enlightenment elements can be seen in the way that Mayhew relays the experiences of the children. He is very detailed and factual showing how they do not think the same way children normally do. On page 1110 he says, ‘I can’t read or write, but I knows how many pennies goes to a shilling, why twelve, of course, but I don’t know how many ha’pence there is, though there’s two to a penny.” All throughout her narration, the girl talks about money and working and she knows them very well but she does not know what a park is. Mayhew highlights this non-childlike knowledge that she has through the sort of mechanical telling of her story. He shows this again with the boy, by including the explanation of the sweeper’s system.

Mayhew also uses elements of Romanticism by using emotional appeal. He shows how poor these children are when the girl says, ‘I don’t have no dinner,’ (1110). She only gets two meals a day and meat only on Sundays. As for the sweepers, they buy a shovel with all their money to shovel snow during the winter. The boy says, ‘It’s awful cold, and gives us chilblains on our feet: but we don’t mind it when we’re working, for we soon gets hot then,’ (1113). These sort of things, as well as their home life and the abuse they suffered, draws on the readers sentimental side and is an element of Romanticism.

“The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844″Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels, “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”, shows how laborious working class members are the main reason of industry, but they are not given the bare essentials. Engels uses both Enlightenment and Romanticism ideals, in conveying his visualization of the Machine Age in England.

Engels uses Enlightenment ideals to portray the hardships put upon the working class. He depicts the terrible conditions in which the working class had to live through, “Indeed no one can blame these helots of modern civilization if their homes are no cleaner than the occasional pigsties which are a feature of these slums (pg. 1107).” Engels connects the houses of the working class with pigsties because of all the filth and trash that they are surrounded in. This shows how the working class are living in unorthodox methods. Engels does not blame the working class because he knows that they are forced to live this way of life. Engels says that, “Capital is the all-important weapon in the class war … the poor, having no capital, inevitably bear the consequences of defeat in the struggle (1102).” Engels logically points out the real reason the working class was not able to prosper in England. Capital is the main component to which the wealthy kept, and gave very little to the workers. Thus making it hard for the workers to develop their own infrastructure. Engels reasons that the working class should be given proper living areas, and not be cast aside like pigs. He connected his ideology to what was happening in England, to prove his point.

Engels also uses Romantic ideals to exemplify England’s economic boom. Engels is awe struck by the natural beauty of London, “I know nothing more imposing than the view one obtains of the river when sailing from the sea to the London Bridge (1101).” He is captivated the scenery of the river, so much that he cannot contain his feelings for nature. But as Engels travels around England he realizes, “It is only when he has visited the slums of the great city that it dawns upon him that the inhabitants of modern London have had to sacrifice … (1102).” Engels notices that outside view of England is the sublime of nature, but the core is full of industries urbanized areas. The slums showed him the reality of how the Machine Age can alter nature, and make it inhabitable for people. Engels uses Romantic ideology to contrast how England looks inviting to the eye at first, but its core is made up of hardships and sorrow.



Enlightenment and Romantic Elements in Mayhew’s “London Labor and the London Poor”

Henry Mayhew combines elements from both the Enlightenment and Romanticism as he describes two different children in this excerpt of “London Labor and the London Poor.” From an Enlightenment viewpoint, Mayhew’s way in which he sought out the stories of the children was very systematic and logical. He gathered four volumes worth of testimonies and from just reading a few pages worth, it is evident he worked on how he retrieved this information, which placed him in a social-experimenter’s role. This is demonstrated in the following lines, “At first I treated her as a child, speaking on childish subjects; so that I might, by being familiar with her, remove all shyness, and get her to narrate her life freely” (1108). So instead letting the conversation move more organically, Mayhew purposely manipulates the conversation in order to retrieve specific information he can use for his agenda. This is a value of the Enlightenment.

However, Mayhew’s purpose in writing these testimonies of the poor children of London also serves as a pathos argument, which is a Romantic quality. Pathos can be seen everywhere in Mayhew’s writing because he showcases the words of the children over his words in the majority of the text. This gives readers a stronger grasp of how uneducated and how terrible the lives of these children are. For example, “I bears the cold–you must; so I puts my hands under my shawl, though it hurts ’em to take hold of the creases, especially when we takes ’em to the pump to wash ’em. No; I never see any children crying–it’s no use” (1109). Here, Mayhew conveys to readers that this girl’s one job in life is to sell watercrease, even in the horrible conditions of winter and with proper clothing. Additionally, her blunt language shows how focused these children are that they cannot even bother to be upset about the conditions of their lives. To readers, this would show how much middle-class people take for granted, including even their command of the English language. Another Romantic quote in the text is Mayhew’s description of parks to the watercress girl,”I explained to her, telling her that they were large open places with green grass and tall trees, where beautiful carriages drove about, and people walked for pleasure, and children played” (1108). This paints a very idealized picture of parks in order to heighten the contrast of the lives of the wealthy versus the life of the watercress girl. In these ways, Mayhew’s work encompasses both Enlightenment and Romanticism elements.

The Use of Romanticism and The Enlightenment By Friedrich Engels

In “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”, Engels provides an argument for the poor in the biggest industrial cities in England by using Romantic elements such as the sublime, emotional appeal, and human degradation brought upon by industry. We first see the sublime, though applied to technology and not to nature, being experience when Engels writes, “Here hundreds of steamships dart rapidly to and fro. All this is so magnificent and impressive that one is lost in admiration. The traveler has good reason to marvel at England’s greatness even before he steps on English soil” (1101). Here, he is using the sublime to recognize the loss of mental clarity that people experience when they’re confronted with new and impressive feats of technology.  He immediately attacks this loss of mental ability in the next sentence, when he says “It is only later that the traveler appreciates the human suffering which has made all this possible” (1102). Thus begins Engel’s use of Romantic emotional appeal. When he describes the “deplorable” conditions that the poor live in, he is channeling the emotions of the reader rather than the rational thought. This emotion is used still to attribute the conditions to the faculties of industry, and thus, saying that human greediness found so easily in the “capitalists” degrades the poor as well as the wealthy. We find this in the lines, “Are they not all equally interested in the pursuit of happiness? And do they not all aim at happiness by following similar pursuits? Yet they rush past each other as if they had nothing in common…But no where is this selfish egotism so blatantly evident as in the frantic bustle of the great city” (1102). This is a clear depiction of both the poor and the wealthy being declined to selfish animals because of the economy they have built. These lines, however can also be used in an Enlightenment argument, as well.

We see that Engels uses Enlightenment ideals in his argument by the lines previously mentioned because the people rushing by each other are all potentially useful economic bodies for society. Engels argues for connection between individuals so that society as a whole could benefit economically, a strong Enlightenment ideal. We also see an argument of reason when he writes of the strong work ethic of the poor, despite their conditions in the city. Engels writes, “Here, too, can be seen most the strenuous efforts of the proletariat to raise themselves from their degraded situation.” (1106). This is an appeal to the rational idea of earning one’s place in society. We see that the poor are, indeed, struggling to get a place at the table by the same industrious means as the wealthy, but are coming up empty handed. The lines on page 1107, “Indeed no one can blame these helots of modern civilization if their homes are no cleaner than the occasional pigsties which are a feature of these slums” clarify the reasons the poor cannot “raise themselves” out of their conditions. The argument in this sentence is a complex one because it can be seen both as an Enlightenment one, through an appeal to the existence of strong work ethic in a member of society, and a Romantic one, through appeals to the degradation to “pigsties” that humans are placing upon other humans.

Romanticism and Enlightenment in Engels

             In Engels’s “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844,” he uses elements of both Romanticism and Enlightenment through his tone and detailed descriptions.  To begin, his descriptions draw heavily from Romanticism. He describes Manchester as a “beautiful hilly countryside” where “the land slopes down to the Irish sea, intersected by the charming green valleys of the Ribble, the Irwell,” and other bodies of water (1105). Engels seems to be writing a travel brochure through his praise of nature.  However, he takes the Romantic view one step further by describing what Industry has turned Manchester into. He speaks of a district of Manchester, “Old town,” coming back to the Romantic fascination with the old and ancient, as “a district which is quite obviously given over to the working class” as the residents “make no effort to give their establishments a semblance of cleanliness” (1106). He cries out “Enough of this! All along the Irk slums of this type abound.” He continues on with a negative, emotion evoking portrait of Manchester, juxtaposing it with the earlier praise for its beauty, and thus making a statement on the damage industry has done. His dramatic descriptions of nature and emotional depictions of the slums both represent his Romantic style, and highlight his Romantic ideals through their contrast with each other.

               I addition to his Romantic writing, Engels incorporates a few elements of the Enlightenment as well. In a logical tone, Engels describes in detail the economic situation of the working class.  He says “Capital is the all-important weapon in class war” and makes the conclusion “the poor, having no capital, inevitable bear the consequences of defeat” (1102).  Engels not only discusses class war and capital, two topics discusses by Smith, Marx, and other Enlightenment thinkers, but he also does so with a logical tone.  His rhetoric resembles a “therefore” type of argument resulting in a conclusion drawn of deduction; Because capital is the most important weapon, and poor people don’t have it, poor people lose the war.  Secondly, he continues with his logical reasoning with his observations as a sort of political scientist and economist.  He says “The slums of English towns have much in common- the worst houses in a town being found in the worst districts” (1104).  This statement among others incorporates the simple logical reasoning essential to Enlightenment writing. As is such, Engels implements both the styles of Romanticism and the logic of Enlightenment in his writings of the condition of the working class.