The Seven Curses of London

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Highlighting the Facts Behind Historical Romance with Lana Williams

When I first encountered a book called The Seven Curses of London while doing research for a book set in Victorian London that I was writing, I was fascinated. The title alone is intriguing, don’t you think?

The Seven Curses of London, published in 1869 and written by James Greenwood, shares the seven worst problems he felt the city faced. With many moving to London to seek employment, the crowded metropolis had more than its fair share of problems, including inadequate housing and sanitation, especially for the poor. The book is both fascinating and disturbing with government statistics and firsthand accounts of those who toured various slums and neighborhoods, some with a police escort for safety. The intriguing details are dramatized by the author’s word choice. Some might say he was overly dramatic, and he was accused of misstating facts. However, several of the seven curses might sound familiar with what we face today.

  1. Neglected Children. According to the author, in England and Wales, children under the age of sixteen with no means of support numbered 350,000. The statistics are concerning, especially along with the author’s descriptions and opinions, which draw in even the modern day reader.
  2. Professional Thieves. These supposedly numbered 20,000. The author shares some of the slang thieves use. The ‘Black Maria’ is the van that takes prisoners to gaol. A ‘dragsman’ is a thief who climbs up behind carriages and cuts the straps to steal the luggage. ‘Flying the blue pigeon’ refers to stealing lead from roofs. Greenwood also discusses the laws passed in an attempt to solve the problem as well as prison reform. He also paints a vivid picture of the lives of juvenile thieves.
  3. default-188x300 Highlighting Historical Romance Professional Beggars. Greenwood discusses the history of laws and attempts to reform as well as the conditions he witnessed. He notes the practice of branding those who were able but refused to work on the shoulder, which marked the individual as available to be taken as a slave for two years. Organizations such as The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity attempted to help fix the problem.
  4. Fallen Women. The author notes the difficulty of the topic and how society might prefer to brush it under the rug rather than offend anyone by discussing it. He shares the various type of prostitutes, including those who were well-dressed and walked the streets, those sold into the business, dress lodgers, and the community of women who were sex workers near army camps known as wrens who drew the notice of Charles Dickens.
  5. Drunkenness., Greenwood delves into the temperance movement (including using children to convince people to abstain), the number of those arrested for drunkenness, and additives (an extensive list, many poisonous!) used to increase alcohol’s intoxication and prevent it from souring.
  6. Betting Gamblers. Greenwood tells us of how the definition of what was acceptable changed (bull-baiting where dogs were encouraged to attack bulls was finally frowned on). Numerous drawings were held on Saturday nights, shortly after most of the working class were paid, luring them into gambling on horse racing.
  7. Waste of Charity. The growing population of London resulted in a equally growing number of the poor. Greenwood notes the amount given to charity yet how many more needed help. He describes the problems of the poor-law and how difficult it was to determine those who needed assistance to “tide over an ugly crisis” from those with an outstretched hand who “refuse to earn their own living.”

There was no easy solution to any of the issues, but viewing them through the eyes of a concerned Victorian Londoner provides fascinating insight to history lovers.

My historical romance series, The Seven Curses of London, which has 13 stories, explores one curse at a time with the heroes and heroines attempting to battle the ills of London while pitted against villains. Many of the novels contain quotes from Greenwood at the beginning of each chapter so readers can sample his work.

My most recent release, ENCHANTING THE DUKE, a Christmas novella, is the final book in the series and available on Amazon.

Cover Image Source

Greenwood, James. The Seven Curses of London. New York: Harper & Bros., 1869.


LanaWilliams_EnchantingTheDuke_800-200x300 Highlighting Historical Romance About the Book: ENCHANTING THE DUKE

A Scrooge of a Duke bound by duty, responsibility, and a vow to his grandfather…

A merry lady who entered into a marriage of convenience with her secret crush…

Can this unlikely pair find their happily ever after in time for Christmas?


About the Author

Lana-Williams-12.10-254x300 Highlighting Historical Romance

Lana Williams

Lana Williams is a USA Today Bestselling Author with over thirty historical romances filled with mystery, adventure, and sometimes a pinch of paranormal to stir things up. Her stories are set in Victorian London, the Regency era, and Medieval England. Find out more at or at

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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