Metropolitan improvements and railway construction, increased over­ crowding and rising rents between 1850 and 1880 drew attention to working-class districts and provoked many protests. In addition to complaints against specific abuses there arose a general agitation which made the housing question one of the great social questions of the day. Protest or descriptive literature dealing with working-class London poured from the press. Public Health, the journal of the medical officers of health, wrote in some disgust in 1868 that the 'British public manifest a periodical inclination for the exhibition of social ulcers. They like to see the bandages gradually removed, and the sore exposed in all its marked hideousness.' But the same journal acknow­ ledged that alongside the deeprooted English love of sensationalism there was rapidly developing a more laudable interest in all aspects affecting public health.^

Certainly both interests, sensational and serious, were well catered for. The booksellers' shelves bulged with a bewildering variety of works portraying the quaint and picturesque, as much as the drab and dread­ ful. But there was also much social reportage of the highest calibre, which shunned descriptions of London as a place of deep mysteries and sensational wickedness, and accurately portrayed the domestic milieu of the working classes. Among these were many powerful works of higher journalism, and several sentimental yet evocative novels: the Mayhew brothers' Paved with Gold (1857), Catherine Sinclair's London Homes (IH^T^) and Augustus Mayhew's Kitty Lameré (1853) may be taken as representative examples and, on a different level, the novels of Dickens, most notably Bleak House (1852-3) and

Oliver Twist ( 1837-8).^ Generally in these works 'London life' rather than working-class housing was the main theme, but the slum environ­ ment was always stressed, although to be sure sometimes as a back­ ground for the drama of everyday life. This body of writing suggests how public concern after mid-century turned from the industrial north and working conditions to the south and living conditions-a natural development following the factory acts and the winning of the ten-hour day, once Chartist agitation had given way to the quieter industrial setting of the 1850s and after. But they also represent an attempt to imitate Mayhew's highly successful vignettes of London low life and profit from the growing interest in the darker aspects of the capital city.