A Child of the Jago, By Arthur Morrison


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The Independent Culture

Morrison's vivid 1896 novel of London slum life – the warren of grimy streets he called the Jago was actually the Old Nichol in Shoreditch – is notable for its absence of sentimentality or easy solutions. Alan Sillitoe criticised Morrison's refusal to countenance redemption: "His characters... lived in a zoo, and were to be regarded with fear, hostility and derision."

Yet the story of young Dickey Parrott and his fearsome family is told in uncompromis-ingly credible language ("This is a bleed'n' unsocial sort o' evenin' party, this is." "Go t' 'ell!"), while its graphic violence presaged novels many decades ahead.

In his previous work Tales of Mean Streets, Morrison coined a term subsequently utilised by Chandler and Scorsese. Our horrified fascination remains unabated.