Arthur Morrison, 1863-1945

Portrait

Biographical note

English author and journalist known for his realistic novels about London’s East End and for his detective stories.

Morrison was born in Poplar, in the East End of London, on 1 November 1863. Little is known about his childhood and education, though he was probably educated in the East End. By 1886 he was working as a clerk at the People’s Palace, in Mile End. In 1890 he left this job and joined the editorial staff of the Globe newspaper. The following year he published a story entitled A Street which was subsequently published in book form in Tales of Mean Streets. The volume was a critical success, but a number of reviewers objected to the violence portrayed in one story, Lizerunt.

Around this time Morrison was also producing detective short stories which emulated those of Arthur Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes. Morrison’s Martin Hewitt was an imitation of Sherlock Holmes, but inverted: he was ordinary, short, and good tempered and gladly cooperated with the police. The twist was that he played both ends against the middle, sometimes as crooked as the criminals. Three volumes of Hewitt stories were published before the publication of the novel for which Morrison is most famous: A Child of the Jago (1896). The novel described in graphic detail living conditions in the East End, including the permeation of violence into everyday life (it was a barely fictionalised account of life in the Old Nichol Street Rookery). Other, less well-received novels and stories followed, until Morrison effectively retired from writing fiction, around 1913.

Works

The Martin Hewitt stories

Other Detective fiction

Working class fiction

Miscellaneous

  • The Shadows Around Us
  • Zig-Zags at the Zoo
  • Green Ginger [1909]
    1. “The Absent Three”
    2. “Arts and Crafts”
    3. “Captain Jollyfax’s Gun”
    4. “The Chamber of Light”
    5. “The Copper Charm”
    6. “Dobb’s Parrot”
    7. “The Drinkwater Romance”
    8. “The House of Haddock”
    9. “A Lucifo Match”
    10. “Mr. Bostock’s Backsliding”
    11. “The Rodd Street Revolution”
    12. “The Seller of Hate”
    13. “A Skinful of Trouble”
    14. “Snorkey Timms, His Mark”
    15. “The Stolen Blenkinson”
    16. “Wick’s Waterloo”
  • Fiddle O’Dreams and More [1933]
    1. “Billy Blenkin’s Radium”
    2. “Brothers at Bay”
    3. “Bylestones”
    4. “The East a’Calling”
    5. “Fiddle o’Dreams”
    6. “The Four-Want Way”
    7. “Frenzied Finance”
    8. “Infantry at the Double”
    9. “Lies Unregistered”
    10. “Mr. Walker’s Aeroplane”
    11. “Myxomycetes”
    12. “A Professional Episode”
    13. “A Return to the Fancy”
    14. “Sports of Mugby”
    15. “The Thing In the Upper Room”
  • The Thing in the Upper Room
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