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The aims of the Arthur Morrison Society are simply to promote his work and to revive his memory. We simply cannot understand how, in so few years, someone with such great talent can be forgotten so completely.
Although based in Loughton, we are now looking to arrange meetings in London. We are now inviting applications from volunteers who want to help us organise events, submit articles for our new e-journal, and fundraise so we can afford to run meetings and conferences.
Most sites about Morrison list his key texts, so there is no need for us to do that again here.
A full list of Morrison's first editions has been published by Jeremy Parrott PhD. You can contact him on: [email protected] He is based both in Hungry and London.
Morrison's contemporary reviews likened some of the description in his books to that of Dickens and his detective character, Martin Hewitt, as a successor to Sherlock Holmes.
The Daily Telegraph in 1909 wrote in a review of Green Ginger:
"It is long since we have laughed so much over ludicrous situations.
We are always heartily and wholesomely entertained."
Yet Morrison is best known for informing his readers about the immense poverty on the Victorian streets of London. His books, which we must remember are a work of fiction, described the appalling conditions that many working people were said to have endured.
His tales often bring out the humanity of the characters, who knew only deprivation and futility. Even when a character was charmless, Morrison was still often able to inject some understanding, if not compassion into the character's condition will illustrating the hopelessness of poverty.
For example, The Hole in the Wall was a public house in Wapping. There we find Nat Kemp who takes in his grandson Stevy following his mother's death. Like many people in his situation, Nat routinely evaded customs, seeing it as both a game and a necessity to buy goods as cheaply as he could. One night, unable to sleep, Stevy goes down stairs to find his grandfather raising something through a trapdoor in part of the building that overhung the Thames.
His grandson asks Nat what he is doing. Nat tells him:
The stuff Bill Stagg brought, Stevy, is ‘bacca. Bacca smashed down so hard that a pound aint bigger than a match-box. An’ I pitch it in the water to swell it out again, see?’ I still failed to understand the method of its arrival. ‘did Bill Stagg steal it, gran’father?’ I asked. Grandfather Nat laughed. ‘No my boy” he said, ‘he bought it, an’ I buy it. It comes of the Dutch boats. But it comes a deal cheaper takin’ it that way at night-time. There’s a big place I’ll show you one day, Stevy – big white house just this side London Bridge. There’s a lot o’ gentlemen there as wants to see all the ‘bacca that comes in from abroad, an’ they take a lot of trouble over it, and charge, too, fearful. So they’re very angry if parties – same as you an’ me – takes in any without lettin’ ‘em know, and paying ‘em the money. An’ they can get you locked up.’ This seemed a very unjust world that I had come into, in which Grandfather Nat was in danger of such terrible penalties for such innocent transactions – buying a watch or getting his tobacco cheap.
Morrison's oriental paintings are now in the British Museum. They are said to be "spectacular".
The Manchester Guardian 10 March 1913, described them as containing:
"between six and seven hundred paintings, drawings, and screens, representative of all the schools and periods of Japanese art, from the tenth or eleventh century to the nineteenth, besides a small number of important works by early Chinese masters, and includes many rarities."