The Mysteries of London argues fiercely and at length against society’s many injustices to the working classes and those below them, interrupting the narrative for powerful harangues against the Game, Corn, and Poor Laws, Child labor, and cruelty in prisons. Late in the novel when poor mad Henry Holford tries to win fame by assassinating Queen Victoria, Reynolds complains how newspapers and popular culture makes heroes of criminals, yet here includes exactly the kind of ballad found on broadsides. This seems to be once of several points in the novel when the demands of genre override the author's — or at least the narrator’s — stated beliefs. — George P. Landow

Upon the drop he turned
To swear a parting oath;
He cursed the parson and Jack Ketch,
And he coolly damned them both.

He listened to the hum
Of the crowds that gathered nigh;
And he carelessly remarked,
"What a famous man am I!"

Beside the scaffold's foot
His mistress piped her eye:
She waved to him her dirty rag,
And whimpering said, "Good bye!"

She mourned the good old times
That ne'er could come again,
When he brought her home a well-lined purse;—
But all her tears were vain!

Poor Jack was soon turned off,
And gallantly was hung:
There was a sigh in every breast,
A groan on every tongue.

Go — gaze upon his corse,
And remember then you see
The bravest robber that has been,
Or ever more shall be!

Related material: Reynolds on crime and punishment


Reynolds, George W. M. The Mysteries of London. vol 2. Project Gutenberg EBook #51294. Produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. Web. 27 September 2016.

Last modified 27 September 2016