New Book | Hawkers, Beggars, and Quacks: ‘The Cries of London’

Posted in books by Editor on January 28, 2022

A new edition of this mainstay of eighteenth-century publishing was recently released by the Bodleian Library and distributed by The University of Chicago Press:

Sean Shesgreen, Hawkers, Beggars and Quacks: Portraits from ‘The Cries of London’ (Oxford: Bodleian Library Publishing, 2021), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1851245512, $55.

Seventy-four striking portraits of men and women on the margins of London society in the seventeenth century—including street vendors and petty criminals.

“Buy my Dish of great Eeles, Any Old Iron take money for, Twelve Pence a Peck Oysters, Buy my fat Chickens, Fair Lemons & Oranges.”

At the end of the seventeenth century, Marcellus Laroon (1653–1702) became well known for a series of drawings that illustrated London’s marginal men and women: street vendors, hustlers, and petty criminals. This set of drawings came to be known as The Cries of London after the shouts and cries vendors used to hawk their wares. Hawkers, Beggars, and Quacks presents seventy-four of Laroon’s striking portraits. Following an illustrated introduction that contextualizes The Cryes of London, each portrait is beautifully reproduced with a commentary on the individual street-seller and their trade. These commentaries provide a wealth of detail about each seller’s dress, the equipment they used to ply their trade, their own diets, and the diets of those they served. Drawing on historic material found in the British Library’s Burney Collection of English newspapers, Hawkers, Beggars and Quacks provides a fascinating insight into the men and women who made their livelihood—legally and illegally—on the streets of England’s capital.

Sean Shesgreen is emeritus professor of English and formerly a Presidential Professor at Northern Illinois University.

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