Crime, Gender, and Sexuality in Criminal Prosecutions

By Louis A. Knafla | Go to book overview

Henry Mayhew and the Criminal Classes of Victorian England: The Case Reopened

David Englander

Mr. Henry Mayhew, called in; and Examined.

q.3471. Mr. Monckton Milnes. WHAT is your occupation? I am an author.

q.3472. Have you given much attention to the question of crime and criminals…?—Yes…I have been attending to the subject, directly and indirectly, for the last six or seven years. I have attended to it not only by association with the criminals themselves, but also by employing persons in collecting information and making general statistics for me. I have generally two clerks continually engaged upon that subject. I have also in visiting the prisons.

q.3473. Did anything lead you especially to take an interest in that subject?—Nothing more than it being part of my business so to do; it is part of my profession. I am devoting myself to an inquiry among the lower orders of people generally, and I have taken such steps as I believe to be necessary for studying their characters, and their habits and dispositions, simply, so to speak, in a scientific point of view. [2nd Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Transportation 1856 (296), XVII.]

The Henry Mayhew, who appeared before the Select Committee on Transportation in 1856, was a celebrated figure who had established himself as something of an authority on social questions. His reputation rested in no small part upon the close relations he enjoyed with the criminal classes. The police, he told Honorable Members, “know very little, so to speak, of the homes and inward feelings of the criminals, and generally speaking have but little consideration of them.” 1 With our author it was otherwise. “Upon what experience do you found all these opinions?” asked Sir John Pakington. “I mean your actual experience of the criminal class.” “Being among them, and continually seeing them,” Mayhew replied. 2 “Although I have

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