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The People of the Abyss

The People of the Abyss by Jack London
By: (1876-1916)

Jack London lived for a time within the grim and grimy world of the East End of London, where half a million people scraped together hardly enough on which to survive. Even if they were able to work, they were paid only enough to allow them a pitiful existence. He grew to know and empathise with these forgotten (or ignored) people as he spoke with them and tasted the workhouse, life on the streets, … and the food, which was cheap, barely nutritious, and foul.

He writes about his experiences in a fluid and narrative style, making it very clear what he thinks of the social structures which created the Abyss, and of the millionaires who live high on the labours of a people forced to live in squalor. “… The food this managing class eats, the wine it drinks, … the fine clothes it wears, are challenged by eight million mouths which have never had enough to fill them, and by twice eight million bodies which have never been sufficiently clothed and housed.”

First Page:


The chief priests and rulers cry:

"O Lord and Master, not ours the guilt, We build but as our fathers built; Behold thine images how they stand Sovereign and sole through all our land.

"Our task is hard with sword and flame, To hold thine earth forever the same, And with sharp crooks of steel to keep, Still as thou leftest them, thy sheep."

Then Christ sought out an artisan, A low browed, stunted, haggard man, And a motherless girl whose fingers thin Crushed from her faintly want and sin.

These set he in the midst of them, And as they drew back their garment hem For fear of defilement, "Lo, here," said he, "The images ye have made of me."



The experiences related in this volume fell to me in the summer of 1902. I went down into the under world of London with an attitude of mind which I may best liken to that of the explorer. I was open to be convinced by the evidence of my eyes, rather than by the teachings of those who had not seen, or by the words of those who had seen and gone before... Continue reading book >>

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Reviews (Rated: 5 Stars - 1 review)

Reviewer: - October 29, 2013
Subject: Disturbing
A book which forces one to introspection, beautifully read by Peter Yearsly.

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