The London Journal of John Mackay, 1837-38
by David E. Coke, ed. Sheila O’Connell
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As an immigrant to London during the transition between the Georgian and Victorian periods, the young John Mackay mingled easily in the city’s crowds.
On his walks his ‘enquiring gaze’ took in the sights and the streets, London at work and at play, and the throng of other inhabitants, whether the disorderly customers in a gin palace or the young Queen Victoria in her carriage. His weekly letters reveal a deeply personal view of everything he observed, creating a trenchant and compelling narrative that is quite unlike any orthodox history.
Mackay’s story was not uncommon at the time but the chance survival of his journal certainly is. It allows modern readers to eavesdrop on the everyday experience of 1830s London.