Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

TOM AND JERRY is a title commonly given to Pierce Egan’s LIFE IN LONDON: OR, THE DAY AND NIGHT SCENES OF JERRY HAWTHORN, ESQ., AND HIS ELEGANT FRIEND, CORINTHIAN TOM, ACCOMPANIED BY BOB LOGIC, THE OXONIAN, IN THEIR RAMBLES AND SPREES THROUGH THE METROPOLIS. The book is a minor masterpiece. Any student of history who wishes to know of life in Regency London must read it, for it is the best single source of its kind. Egan, a sporting gentleman who keenly observed the life around him, put into his picaresque narrative a detailed account of boxing, cockfighting, masquerades, and taverns. Much of the slang of the day can be found in this work—some of it still seems new—carefully explained in footnotes. At the time of publication, the innumerable puns added to the liveliness of the novel, but to most modern readers, the plays on words are often obscure and they can be disregarded. Egan’s comic spirit made him a forerunner of Surtees and Dickens.

Egan’s popularity in his own day was based on two works: BOXIANA: OR, SKETCHES OF MODERN PUGILISM (1818-1824) and LIFE IN LONDON, originally published in monthly serial form and illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank. The book was immensely popular for a time and was the rage in London; at one point in THE ROUNDABOUT PAPERS, Thackeray pictures himself as a boy getting boxed on the ears by his schoolmaster because he is caught reading a copy of LIFE IN...

(The entire section is 546 words.)