In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Henry Mayhew and the Mayhew Brothers

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Thomas Mayhew (b. 1810–d. 1834)
  • Edward Mayhew (b. 1813–d. 1868)
  • Horace Mayhew (b. 1816–d. 1872)
  • Augustus Mayhew (b. 1826–d. 1875)
  • The Mayhew Brothers

Victorian Literature Henry Mayhew and the Mayhew Brothers
Bertrand Taithe
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0183


Henry Mayhew and his brothers were writers in the early and mid-Victorian periods. The most famous of the siblings was Henry Mayhew. Henry and his brothers were born in an upper-middle class family of seventeen children. Their father, Joshua Dorset Joseph Mayhew, who left £50,000 in his will, attempted in vain to discipline his boys. Several his children began public careers as writers and artists: Thomas (b. 1810–d. 1834) a journalist; Henry (b. 1812–d. 1887) author and journalist; Edward (b. 1813–d. 1868) dramatist, journalist, and veterinarian; Horace (b. 1816–d. 1872) author and journalist; Julius (b. 1820–d. 1908) photographer and architect; Augustus (b. 1826–d. 1875) author and journalist. Three siblings became known as the “Brothers Mayhew”: Henry and Augustus, who regularly published together, with occasional contributions by Horace. Henry has been the object of most of the scholarly attention, albeit for a limited portion of his work, yet a more holistic perspective would consider his work more widely and that of his brothers and collaborators. The eldest, Thomas Mayhew, editor of Henry Hetherington’s Poor Man’s Guardian (1831–1832), succeeded by the Chartist James Brontere o’Brien (b. 1805–d. 1864), deserves particular attention. The Mayhews belonged to a generation of highly enterprising and financially insecure men of letters (Thomas and Henry faced bankruptcy) associating with more successful authors such as Charles Dickens (b. 1812–d. 1870), Douglas Jerrold (b. 1803–d. 1857), William Makepeace Thackeray (b. 1811–d. 1863), Gilbert Abott à’Beckett (b. 1811–d. 1856), George Augustus Sala (b. 1828–d. 1895), Edmund Yates (b. 1831–d. 1894), Henry Vizetelly (b. 1820–d. 1894), William Tinsley (b. 1831–d. 1902). The Mayhews embraced the democratization of print culture and produced cheap and popular novels, humorous texts, and newspapers. They were associated with dissident and radical publications: Henry Mayhew was a founder of The Thief, Figaro in London, and most importantly Punch in 1841. The Mayhew brothers worked with caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank (b. 1792–d. 1878). As a journalist Henry Mayhew also wrote for the Illustrated London News. He was employed by the Morning Chronicle in 1849 when he launched into his social journalism, defying any straightforward classification, as it combined interviews and economic and cultural reporting on the poor as well as “urban exploratory” work. His initial journalism was continued independently as London Labour and the London Poor and its sequel, in 1856, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life. The significance of London Labour and the London Poor (including the articles in the Morning Chronicle leading to it and the Criminal World of London which followed) dominates any reference to other writings by Henry or his brothers. The second and greater part of this entry will be devoted to Henry Mayhew and the London Labour and the London Poor while it will seek to highlight new or less explored themes in the writings of Henry Mayhew and his brothers and invite further research across their work.


There are no specific bibliographies devoted to the Mayhew brothers. On Henry Mayhew there are some sources which will represent a useful starting point for the reader. It is worth mentioning two generalist texts from the 19th and 20th centuries respectively (Allibone 1870 and Shattock 2011). Contrasting these two bibliographies illustrates how Henry Mayhew’s reputation changed from being regarded a man of letters to being primarily remembered as a social investigator in Shattock. The review essay Joshi 2012 is a good starting evaluation of the literature on Henry Mayhew up to 2012; the two biographies of Henry Mayhew by Humpherys and Anderson contain extensive bibliographies and are discussed in the Henry Mayhew (b. 1812–d. 1887) section.

  • Allibone, Samuel Austin. A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors. Vol 2. London: Trübner and Co., 1870.

    Gives a contemporary evaluation of Henry Mayhew and his brothers which tends to emphasize the critical success of their children stories and travel narratives.

  • Joshi, Priti. “The Other Great Exhibition: Mayhew’s Catalog of the Industrious.” Literature Compass 9.1 (2012): 95–105.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2011.00858.x

    This evaluation contains a number of small errors but is undoubtedly useful in locating Henry Mayhew in the wider scholarship.

  • Shattock, Joanne, ed. The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Vol. 4. 3d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    Has a couple of pages devoted to a list (not exhaustive) of Augustus and Henry Mayhew’s publications (pp. 2110 and 2166).

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