Going Down the Drain: Sweeney Todd, Sewerage, and London Sanitation in the 1840s

Jarlath Killeen


This article examines the penny blood The String of Pearls in terms of its treatment of human remains as the equivalent of human excrement, arguing that the serial acts as an intervention into the debate about waste management and treatment in 1840s London.


Penny Blood; Human Waste; Sewerage; Corpse Culture

Full Text:



Ackroyd, P. (2000). London: The Biography. London: Chatto and Windus.

Ackroyd, P. (2012). London Under. London: Vintage.

Anglo, M. (1977). Penny Dreadfuls and other Victorian Horrors. London: Jupiter.

Anonymous. (January, 1862). Progress of the Metropolitan Main Drainage: The Works North of the River. The Builder, 20(990), 53-6.

Arnold, C. (2006). Necropolis: London and Its Dead. London: Pocket Books.

Brantlinger, P. (1998). The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Brottman, M. (1997). Offensive Films: Toward an Anthropology of Cinéma Vomitif. Westport, CN and London: Greenwood Press.

Brown, J. (2013). Cannibalism in Literature and Film. London: Palgrave.

Danahay, M. A. (1991). Matter Out of Place: The Politics of Pollution in Ruskin and Turner. Clio, 21(1), 61-77.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1996). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem, & H. R. Lane, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Finer, S. E. (1970). The Life and Times of Sir Edwin Chadwick. London: Methuen.

Flanders, J. (2013). The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London. London: Atlantic Books.

Hackenberg, S. (2009). Vampires and Resurrection Men: The Perils and Pleasures of the Embodied Past in 1840’s Sensation Fiction. Victorian Studies, 52(1), 63-75.

Haining. P. (1975). The Penny Dreadful. London: Victor Gollancz.

Halliday, S. (1999). The Great Stink of London: Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton.

Jackson, L. (2014). Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

James, E., & Smith, H. R. (1998). Penny Dreadfuls and Boy’s Adventures: The Barry Ono Collection of Victorian Popular Literature in the British Library. London: The British Library.

James, L. (1963). Fiction for the Working Man, 1830-1850. London: Oxford University Press.

Killeen, J. (2012). Victorian Gothic Pulp Fiction. In A. Smith, & W. Hughes (Eds.), The Victorian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion, pp. 43-56. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Knight, C. (Ed.) (1841). London. Vol. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co.

Mack, R. L. (Ed.). (2007). Sweety Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. London: Oxford University Press.

Mack, R. L. (2007). The Wonderful and Surprising History of Sweeney Todd: The Life and Times of an Urban Legend. London: Continuum.

McRoy, J. (2010). “Parts is Parts”: Pornography, Splatter Films and the Politics of Corporeal Disintegration. In I. Conrich (Ed.), Horror Zone: The Cultural Experience of Contemporary Horror Cinema (pp. 191-204). London-New York: I. B. Tauris.

Pickard, L. (2005). Victorian London: The Life of a City, 1840-1870. London: Phoenix.

Poovey, M. (1995). Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830–1864. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Porter, R. (2000). London: A Social History. London: Penguin.

Powell, S. (2004). Black Markets and Cadaverous Pies: The Corpse, Urban Trade and Industrial Consumption in the Penny Blood’. In A. Maunder, & G. Moore (Eds.), Victorian Crime Madness and Sensation (pp. 45-58). Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Sanderson, H. (1847). A Plan for a Effectual General System of Sewage for the Cities of London and Westminster and their Suburbs. London: John Williams & Co.

Schuelting, S. (2016). Dirt in Victorian Literature and Culture: Writing Materiality. London: Routledge.

Snow, J. (1843). Health of Towns: An Examination of the Report and Evidence of the Select Committee of Mr. Mackinnon’s Bill and of the Acts for Establishing Cemetries Around the Metropolis. London: John Snow.

Springhall, J. (1998). Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap, 1830-1996. New York: St. Martin’s.

The Sessonal Papers, printed by Order of The House of Lords, Session 1840, Vol. 28, Reports from Select Committees of the House of Commons, Health of Towns, 1-288.

Walker, G. (1839). Gatherings from grave yards: particularly those of London: with a concise history of the modes of interment among different nations, from the earliest periods. And a detail of dangerous and fatal results produced by the unwise and revolting custom of inhuming the dead in the midst of the living. London: Longman.

Walker, G. (1846). Burial House Incendiarism: The Last Fire at the Bone-House in the Spa Fields Golgotha. London: Longman.

White, J. (2007). London in the Nineteenth Century: ”A Human Awful Wonder of God”. London: Jonathan Cape.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/lsmll.2019.43.2.3-18
Data publikacji: 2019-07-03 11:00:31
Data złożenia artykułu: 2018-07-06 19:40:15


Total abstract view - 362
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 210



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Jarlath Killeen

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.