10 February, 2010

Item 25: Henry Mayhew Letter with Enclosure

  Item 25: Henry Mayhew Letter with Envelope. 1880


During the mid-19th century, Henry Mayhew was a well known writer, journalist and advocate for social reform.  He wrote numerous plays and was also a co-founder of Punch magazine, the enduring British publication famous for its satire and literary humor.  But history remembers Mayhew most for the investigations of London's lower classes that he conducted throughout 1849 and 1850.  He reported his findings in a series of articles for the Morning Observer; these surveys were ultimately collected in a book entitled London Labour and the London Poor.  His work was groundbreaking and significant and had an especially notable influence on the novels and stories of Charles Dickens.

Despite the fame and reputation these endeavors brought to Mayhew, he fell into obscurity in his later years.  The events of his life from1865 until his death in 1887 have long been a mystery, but Collection Item 25 reveals that for at least part of that time he was in contact with Geoffrey Hawkins.  Item 25 is a letter Mayhew wrote to Hawkins on 22 May, 1880.  It was accompanied in the envelope by a what is believed to be the very first documentation of a clock-head.


The text of the letter:


22 May 1880

My Dear Hawkins,

I regret again that I have found no evidence of this mysterious Cyncad of whom you queried me earlier this year.

Though I remain the social recluse you stumbled upon a decade ago, I am no stranger to the streets of this city and I often walk the avenues and alleys that I so notoriously explored more than a score of years ago.

Word of these clock-heads continues to spread.  The police are quick to characterize these reports as the fabrications of of drunken miscreants, and the members of the press seem to have no interest in pursuing the story, apparently judging it unworthy of even uncultured sensationalism.

By chance and good fortune I was recently presented with a drawing of one of these clock-heads.  It is rumored to have been hastily rendered by a prostitute residing within the Old Nichol Street rookery who had been accosted by one of the creatures.  You will find that rendering enclosed herein.  I will leave it to your judgment as to whether any of this bears relevance to your ongoing investigations.

I remain your humble servant in these matters,

H. Mayhew

Item 25-A: Drawing of a Clock-Head. 1880.


The drawing that Mayhew references bears the following inscription, apparently written by Mayhew himself:

given to me 17 May 1880
by A. Steenburgen
artist name unknown
resided in old nichol


Hawkins was actively pursuing the notorious Dr. Cyncad at this time and at some point had enlisted Henry Mayhew in his efforts.  When Archer Bowens forwarded these materials, he noted that it is likely that this was the first time Hawkins and his associates determined a possible link between Cyncad and the clock-heads.

1 Observations:

Amanda said...

Intriguing. . . . So that is where Mayhew was. Makes me wonder what other trouble or intrigues he may have been involved in.