Arthur Morrison

Arthur George Morrison (1 November 1863 – 4 December 1945) was an English writer and journalist known for his realistic novels and stories about working-class life in London's East End, and for his detective stories, featuring the detective Martin Hewitt. He also collected Japanese art and published several works on the subject. He left a large collection of paintings and other works of art to the British Museum after his death in 1945.[1] Morrison's best known work of fiction is his novel A Child of the Jago (1896).

Arthur Morrison
Born1 November 1863
Poplar, London
Died4 December 1945 (aged 82)
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Occupationwriter, journalist, art writer, art collector
Subjectdetective fiction, working-class life
Literary movementLiterary realism
Notable worksA Child of the Jago
SpouseElizabeth Thatcher
ChildrenGuy Morrison

Early life

Morrison was born in Poplar, in the East End of London, on 1 November 1863. His father George was an engine fitter at the London Docks. George died in 1871 of tuberculosis, leaving his wife Jane with three children including Arthur. Arthur spent his youth in the East End. In 1879 he began working as an office boy in the Architect's Department of the London School Board. He later remembered frequenting used bookstores in Whitechapel Road around this time. In 1880 Arthur's mother took over a shop in Grundy Street. Morrison published his first work, a humorous poem, in the magazine Cycling in 1880, and took up cycling and boxing. He continued to publish works in various cycling journals.[2]


In 1885 Morrison published his first serious journalistic work in the newspaper The Globe. In 1886, after having worked his way up to the rank of a third-class clerk, he was appointed to a position at the People's Palace, in Mile End. In 1888 he was given reading privileges at the British Museum. In the same year he published a collection of thirteen sketches entitled Cockney Corner, describing life and conditions in several London districts including Soho, Whitechapel, and Bow Street. In 1889 he became an editor of the paper Palace Journal, reprinting some of his Cockney Corner sketches, and writing commentaries on books and other subjects including the life of London poor people.[3]

In 1890 he left this job and joined the editorial staff of The Globe and moved to lodgings in the Strand. In 1891 he published his first book The Shadows Around Us, a collection of supernatural stories. In October 1891 his short story A Street was published in Macmillan's Magazine. In 1892 he collaborated with illustrator J. A. Sheppard on a collection of animal sketches, one entitled My Neighbors' Dogs, for The Strand Magazine. Later that year he married Elizabeth Thatcher at Forest Gate. He befriended writer and editor William Ernest Henley around this time, publishing stories of working-class life in Henley's National Observer between 1892-94. His son Guy Morrison was born in 1893.[4]

The Old Jago
A sketch of the Old Jago from the first American edition of A Child of the Jago, 1896

In 1894 Morrison published his first detective story featuring the detective Martin Hewitt. In November he published his short story collection Tales of Mean Streets, dedicating the work to Henley. The collection was reviewed in 1896 in America by Jacob Riis. Morrison later said that the work was publicly banned. Reviewers of the collection objected to his story Lizerunt, causing Morrison to write a response in 1895. Later in 1894 he published Martin Hewitt, Investigator. In 1895 he was invited by writer and clergyman Reverend A. O. M. Jay to visit the Old Nichol Street Rookery.[5] Morrison continued to develop his interest in Japanese art, which he had been introduced to by a friend in 1890. Morrison began writing his novel A Child of the Jago in early 1896. The novel was published in November by Henley. It described in graphic detail living conditions in the East End, including the permeation of violence into everyday life (it was a barely fictionalised account of life in the Old Nichol Street Rookery). Morrison also published The Adventures of Martin Hewitt in 1896. A second edition of A Child of the Jago came out in 1897.[5]

In 1897 Morrison published seven short stories detailing the exploits of Horace Dorrington. In contrast to Morrison's earlier character Martin Hewitt, who one critic described as "low-key, realistic, lower-class answer to Sherlock Holmes," Dorrington was "a respected but deeply corrupt private detective," "a cheerfully unrepentant sociopath who is willing to stoop to theft, blackmail, fraud or cold-blooded murder to make a dishonest penny."[6] These stories were collected into a book titled The Dorrington Deed Box, also published in 1897.

In 1899 Morrison published To London Town as the final instalment of a trilogy including Tales of Mean Streets and A Child of the Jago. His work Cunning Murrell was published in 1900, followed by The Hole in the Wall in 1902. He continued to publish a wide variety of works throughout the 1900s, including short story collections, one act plays, and articles on Japanese art. In 1906 he sold a collection of Japanese woodcuts to the British Museum.[7] He also published a play in collaboration with his neighbour, Horace Newte.

Morrison lived and wrote successively at Chingford and Loughton.

Later life

Arthur Morrison blue plaque, Loughton
Arthur Morrison blue plaque, High Road, Loughton

In 1911 he published his authoritative work Japanese Painters, illustrated with paintings from his own collection. A sixth edition of A Child of the Jago came out the same year. In 1913 he retired from journalistic work, moving to a home in High Beach in Epping Forest. His son Guy joined the army in 1914 to serve in World War I. The same year Morrison sold his collection of Japanese art to Sir Watkin Gwynn Evans for £4000. Morrison continued to publish works about art. In 1915 Morrison served as a special constable in Essex, and was credited with reporting news of the first Zeppelin raid on London. In 1921 Guy Morrison died of malaria. Morrison was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Literature in 1924.[8]

In 1930 he moved to his last home in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire. In 1933 he published the short story collection Fiddle o'Dreams and More. In 1935 he was elected to the council of the Royal Society of Literature. Morrison died in 1945. In his will he left his collection of paintings, and woodcuts, and a collection of ceremonial tea porcelain to the British Museum. He also directed that his library be sold and his papers burnt.[9]


The Arthur Morrison Society was formed in 2007. The Society's first public event was a reading by Morrison's grave, followed by a talk by Stan Newens. He later wrote a book about Morrison. Since then, the Morrison Society has organised talks and other events as part of the Loughton Festival. These included a talk by Tim Clark of the British Museum about Morrison's Japanese print collection.[10] There is a blue plaque to him near the site of his Loughton house, Salcombe Lodge. On 28 April 2019 there will be a reading of two of Morrison's detective stories read and performed by the award-winning actor Robert Crighton at Loughton Baptist Church, a stone's throw away from where Salcombe Lodge once stood.

Literary works

  • Tales of Mean Streets (1894)
  • Martin Hewitt, Investigator (1894)
  • Zig-Zags At The Zoo (1894)
  • The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt (1895)
  • The Adventures of Martin Hewitt (1896)
  • A Child of the Jago (1896)
  • The Dorrington Deed Box (1897)
  • To London Town (1899)
  • Cunning Murrell (1900)
  • The Hole in the Wall (1902)
  • The Red Triangle (1903)
  • The Green Eye of Goona - The Green Diamond (US title) (1904)
  • Divers Vanities (1905)
  • Green Ginger (1909)
  • Fiddle o'Dreams And More (1933)


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Miles 2012, p. xxxi.
  3. ^ Miles 2012, p. xxxii.
  4. ^ Miles 2012, p. xxxiii.
  5. ^ a b Miles 2012, p. xxxiv.
  6. ^ Horace Dorrington - The Thrilling Detective
  7. ^ Miles 2012, p. xxxv.
  8. ^ Miles 2012, p. xxxvi.
  9. ^ Miles 2012, p. xxxvii.
  10. ^ "The Arthur Morrison Society". 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2012.


  • Newens, Stan (2008). Arthur Morrison: The Novelist of Realism in East London and Essex. Alderton Press. ISBN 978-1-905269-10-5.
  • Miles, Peter (2012). A Child of the Jago; Chronology of Arthur Morrison. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-960551-4.

External links

14th New Zealand Parliament

The 14th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It was elected at the 1899 general election in December of that year.

1901 Caversham by-election

The 1901 Caversham by-election was a by-election in the New Zealand electorate of Caversham, an urban seat in Dunedin at the south-east of the South Island.

A Child of the Jago

A Child of the Jago is an 1896 novel by Arthur Morrison.

Arthur Morrison (politician)

Arthur Morrison (22 November 1846 – 21 November 1901) was a member of parliament in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Caversham (New Zealand electorate)

Caversham was a parliamentary electorate in the city of Dunedin in the Otago region of New Zealand, from 1866 to 1908.

Clive Morrison-Bell

Sir Arthur Clive Morrison-Bell, 1st Baronet (19 April 1871 – 16 April 1956), known as Clive Morrison-Bell, was a British soldier and Conservative Party parliamentarian.

Detection Club

The Detection Club was formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, Hugh Walpole, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, Baroness Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, G. D. H. Cole, Margaret Cole, E. C. Bentley, Henry Wade, and H. C. Bailey. Anthony Berkeley was instrumental in setting up the club, and the first president was G. K. Chesterton. There was a fanciful initiation ritual with an oath probably written by either Chesterton or Sayers, and the club held regular dinner meetings in London.

James Arthur Morrison House

The James Arthur Morrison House, also known as the Morrison-Walker House, is a historic Spanish Colonial Revival style house and garage/guest house in Mobile, Alabama, United States. The two-story stucco and concrete main house was completed in 1926. It features Mission-style side parapets on the main block, red tile roofing, a central entrance courtyard with a decorative gate, a rear arcaded porch, and arched doorways on the exterior and in the interior. The matching garage/guest house has a two-story central block with a massive chimney and is flanked to each side by one-story garage door bays. The house and garage were added to the National Register of Historic Places as a part of the Spanish Revival Residences in Mobile Multiple Property Submission on July 12, 1991.

James Murrell

James Murrell (c. 1785 – 16 December 1860), also known as Cunning Murrell, was an English cunning man, or professional folk magician, who spent most of his life in the town of Hadleigh in the eastern English county of Essex. In this capacity, he reportedly employed magical means to aid in healing both humans and animals, exorcising malevolent spirits, countering witches, and restoring lost or stolen property to its owner.

Born in Rochford, Essex, Murrell grew up in the area before moving to Southwark in London, where he was married in 1812. He had seventeen children with his wife, and the family later moved back to Essex, settling in Hadleigh, where Murrell gained work as a shoemaker. At some point he also began working as a cunning man, gaining fame for his work in this field on both sides of the Thames Estuary. Describing himself as "the Devil's Master", he cultivated an air of mystery about himself, also experimenting with the creation of iron witch bottles. On a number of occasions his magical activities gained the attention of the local press. Although many residents valued his services and viewed him as a good and benevolent individual, his activities proved controversial and divisive. Many educated figures criticised what they saw as his role in encouraging superstition among the local population; his death certificate recorded his profession as that of a "quack doctor".

Murrell's fame greatly increased after his death when he was made the subject, albeit in a highly fictionalised form, of a 1900 novel by Arthur Morrison. Morrison also produced a more objective study of the cunning man, published in The Strand magazine. During the 1950s, the folklorist Eric Maple conducted further research on Murrell, finding much local folklore still surrounding him in the Hadleigh area, including the allegation that he had the ability to fly and to instantaneously transport himself vast distances. Murrell has continued to attract the attention of historians and folklorists studying English folk magic, and is referenced in works by scholars like Ronald Hutton, Owen Davies, and Ralph Merrifield.

Lazy Lightning

Lazy Lightning is a 1926 American silent western film directed by William Wyler and starring Art Acord, Fay Wray and Robert Gordon.

Liberal–Labour (New Zealand)

Liberal–Labour (often referred to as "Lib-Lab") was a political association in New Zealand in the last decade of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries.

Spanish Revival Residences in Mobile Multiple Property Submission

The Spanish Revival Residences in Mobile Multiple Property Submission is a multiple property submission of buildings that were listed together on the National Register of Historic Places as some of the best remaining examples in Mobile, Alabama of houses built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. It covers ten properties.Although best known in California and Florida, the style came early to Mobile and was eagerly embraced. The Latin colonial history of the city, as well as its semi-tropical climate, are thought by architectural scholars to have been a factor in this. The George Fearn House was the first example in 1904, quickly followed by the grand Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Passenger Terminal in 1907. Government Street Methodist Church (1906-1917) was another elaborate example. These grand buildings spurred the building of Spanish Revival houses of varying degrees of sophistication in neighborhoods all around the rapidly growing city during the 1920s. The Mobile Country Club, completed in 1927, and some of its surrounding mansions was built in the style. The middle-class Florence Place subdivision was originally solely composed of Spanish Revival houses.

Strings of Steel

Strings of Steel is a 1926 action film serial directed by Henry MacRae. The film is considered to be lost.

The Feud Girl

The Feud Girl is a 1916 American drama silent film directed by Frederick A. Thomson and written by Charles Logue. The film stars Hazel Dawn, Irving Cummings, Arthur Morrison, Hardee Kirkland, Russell Simpson and Gertrude Norman. The film was released on May 14, 1916, by Paramount Pictures.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (TV series)

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is a British anthology mystery television series that was produced by Thames Television and originally broadcast on the ITV Network. There were two series of 13 fifty-minute episodes; the first aired in 1971, the second in 1973. The programme presented adaptations of short mystery, suspense or crime stories featuring, as the title suggests, detectives who were literary contemporaries of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes took its inspiration – and title – from a series of published anthologies by Hugh Greene, elder brother of author Graham Greene and the former director-general of the BBC. Hugh Greene is credited on the programme as a creative consultant.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (book series)

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is the first in a series of published anthologies by Hugh Greene, elder brother of author Graham Greene and the former director-general of the BBC.

Some of the stories were subsequently adapted for a television series of the same name, broadcast in 1971-73.

The Saleslady

The Saleslady is a 1916 American drama silent film directed by Frederick A. Thomson and written by Willard Mack. The film stars Hazel Dawn, Irving Cummings, Dorothy Rogers, Clarence Handyside and Arthur Morrison. The film was released on March 23, 1916, by Paramount Pictures.

Thomas Sidey

Sir Thomas Kay Sidey (27 May 1863 – 20 May 1933) was a New Zealand politician from the Otago region, remembered for his successful advocacy of daylight saving time.

Weavers' windows

Weavers' windows are large horizontal windows on the top floor of a dwelling that allowed the residents light to weave. Weavers' windows are associated with the Hugenot migration to Britain and Ireland. Before the Industrial revolution, weaving was carried out in the homes of weavers, and their looms were typically on the top floor of their dwellings, lit by "Weavers' windows", long windows that admitted the most sunlight. Weavers' windows were also called "lights".In chapter 17 of A Child of the Jago Arthur Morrison wrote:

And the wreckers tore down the foul old houses, laying bare the secret dens of a century of infamy; lifting out the wide sashes of the old ‘weavers’ windows’— the one good feature in the structures letting light and air at last into the subterraneous basements where men and women had swarmed, and bred, and died, like wolves in their lairs.

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