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About this book

Jessica's First Prayer and Froggy's Little Brother are exemplars of the 'street arab' story, a genre that flourished in Victorian Britain in response to child poverty and destitution. This critical edition features the original texts of the first editions, and examines the stories through a critical lens and in their historical context.

Table of Contents

Jessica’s First Prayer

IN a screened and secluded corner of one of the many railway-bridges which span the streets of London, there could be seen, a few years ago, from five o’clock every morning until half-past eight, a tidily set out coffee-stall, consisting of a trestle and board, upon which stood two large tin cans, with a small fire of charcoal burning under each, so as to keep the coffee boiling during the early hours of the morning when the work-people were thronging into the city, on their way to their daily toil.3 The coffee-stall was a favourite one, for besides being under shelter, which was of great consequence upon rainy mornings, it was also in so private a niche that the customers taking their out-of-door breakfast were not too much exposed to notice; and moreover, the coffee-stall keeper was a quiet man, who cared only to serve the busy workmen, without hindering them by any gossip. He was a tall, spare, elderly man, with a singularly solemn face, and a manner which was grave and secret. Nobody knew either his name or dwelling-place; unless it might be the policeman who strode past the coffee-stall every half-hour, and nodded familiarly to the solemn man behind it.
Elizabeth Thiel, Brenda

Froggy’s Little Brother

In the neighbourhood of Shoreditch, a part of the East End of London inhabited mostly by very poor, hard-working people, and seldom visited by the grand West End folk, there lived some years ago a father and mother and two little boys. The father had a Punch and Judy show, which supported the family, and kept them all employed except little Benny, the baby boy. While the father was showing off Punch inside the green curtain, and making those funny nasal noises which all London children know so well, the mother used to stand by with Benny asleep in her arms, watching that no inquisitive ones should come too close, and peep into the mysteries behind the green curtain. Then Froggy, the elder boy, who was not much more than a baby either in size, but was very wise beyond his years, used to stand by the drum, keeping shrewd watch on all the windows from which people could see the performance, so that when it was ended, and the time came for collecting the money, he could tell mother exactly where to go for it. This little boy’s real name was Tommy, but his father had always called him Froggy, because he was so often cold, and croaked sometimes when he had a cough, like those little creatures who live in the ditches, and have such very wide mouths and large goggle eyes.
Elizabeth Thiel, Brenda
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