Seven Curses of London: The effect of Penny Rags on our Youth

[Does] all such coarse and vulgar trash find its level amongst the coarse and vulgar, and … gain no footing above its own elevation? It may so stand in reason, but unfortunately it is the unreasonable fact that this same pen poison finds customers at heights above its natural low and foul waterline … How otherwise is it accountable that at least a quarter of a million of these penny numbers are sold weekly? How is it that in quiet suburban neighbourhoods, far removed from the stews of London, and the pernicious atmosphere they engender; in serene and peaceful semi-country towns where genteel boarding schools flourish, there may almost invariably be found some small shopkeeper who accommodatingly receives consignments of ‘Blue-skin,’ and the ‘Mysteries of London,’ and unobtrusively supplies his well-dressed little customer with these full-flavoured articles? Granted, my dear sir, that your young Jack, or my twelve years old Robert, have minds too pure either to seek out or crave after literature of the sort in question, but not infrequently it is found without seeking. It is a contagious disease, just as cholera and typhus and the plague are contagious, and, as everybody is aware, it needs not personal contact with a body stricken to convey either of these frightful maladies to the hale and hearty. A tainted scrap of rag has been known to spread plague and death through an entire village, just as a stray leaf of ‘Panther Bill,’ or ‘Tyburn Tree’ may sow the seeds of immorality amongst as many boys as a town can produce.

Seven Curses of London, James Greenwood

O’Neill, Gilda. The Good Old Days: Poverty, Crime and Terror in Victorian London (pp. 47-48). Endeavour Press. Kindle Edition.