Blanchard Jerrold, the son of the successful journalist, Douglas Jerrold, was was born in London in 1826. Educated in London and France, William intended to become an artist but this plan was abandoned when he developed problems with his eye-sight.
Jerrold became a writer and four of his plays, including Beau Brummel, were performed. He also worked as a journalist and on the death of his father in 1857, replaced him as editor of Lloyd's Weekly newspaper.
In 1869, Gustave Dore, the famous French artist, was in London having talks with his English publisher. Jerrold suggested to Dore that they worked together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had got the idea from The Microcosm of London (1808), that had been produced by Rudolf Ackermann, William Pyne and Thomas Rowlandson and Life in London by Pierce Egan and George Cruikshank.
Jerrold and Gustave Dore signed a five-year project with he publishers, Grant & Co. Dore was paid the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the proposed art work. The book, London: A Pilgrimage with 180 engravings by Dore, was eventually published in 1872.
Although a commercial success, many of the critics disliked the book. Several were upset that Jerrold and Dore had concentrated on the poverty that existed in London. Gustave Dore was accused by the Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying". The Westminster Review claimed that " Dore gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down".
Blanchard Jerrold died in 1884.
Among the watchmakers and jewellers of Clerkenwell; the starving descendants of the Spitalfields weavers; the cabinet makers and workers of wood, by the Aldersgate Street purlieus; the Teutons who bake and refine sugar in Whitechapel; the unsavoury leather workers of Bermondsey; the shoemakers of Shoreditch and Drury Lane; the potters of Lambeth; are hosts of shiftless, hopeless victims of the fierce competition of the overcrowded labour market: the slop-workers, needlewomen, street vendors, mountebanks, sharpers, beggars and thieves, who disgrace our civilisation by their sufferings or their misdeeds.
The extremes lie close together. How many minutes' walk have we between St. Swithin's Lane, and that low gateway of the world-famed millionaire; and this humble authority in exchanges, in materials for shoddy, in left-off clothes cast aside by the well-to-do, to be passed with due consideration and profit to the backs of the poor? The old clothesman's children are rolling about upon his greasy treasure, while he, with his heavy silver spectacles poised upon his hooked nose, takes up each item, and estimates it to a farthing.
It was in the poor markets, it need hardly be said, that we found our most striking subjects, and ever as we neared the poorest, we saw the buyer at a fresh disadvantage. In Convent Garden, there is the higgler, or middle-man, who buys from the producer to sell to the retailer, who will, in his turn, sell to the humble customer. The rich man buys first-hand; the poor man, fifth-hand.
If we pass from the great markets to the small; from the West End shops to Phil's Gardens, by St. Mary Axe, and Petticoat Lane, and the New Cut, and Somers Town; we come upon immense wor-begone communities, who are without knowledge or skill, and can consequently command only the lowest wage. Behold them keenly testing and examining the huge bunches of rags that are temptingly hung from old clothesmen's doors and windows; and how their eyes run along the rows of old boots and shoes upon the pavement. The eagerness of the vendors is as remarkable as the anxiety painted on the faces of the customers. This is a hard battle over every rag and trinket: and the noise of the strife is deafening.
London boasts something like a hundred hospitals, a hundred homes and refuges for the houseless, fifty orphan asylums, over twenty institutions for the blind and deaf, fourteen for the relief of discharged prisoners, eighteen penitentiaries for fallen women, five asylums for incurables, over forty homes and institutions for poor sailors, and nearly twenty for soldiers; twelve charitable institutions for the benefit of poor Jews, and between thirty and forty relief societies for the clergy.