The People of the Abyss
The People of the Abyss (1903) is a book by Jack London about life in the East End of London in 1902. He wrote this first-hand account by living in the East End (including the Whitechapel District) for several months, sometimes staying in workhouses or sleeping on the streets. The conditions he experienced and wrote about were the same as those endured by an estimated 500,000 of the contemporary London poor.
Antecedents and successors
There had been several previous accounts of slum conditions in England, most notably The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 by Friedrich Engels. However, these were second hand sources and not based upon first hand study. Jack London was a very successful man, and his account was far more popular.
In 1890, Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives which created a sensation. It has been suggested as a source of inspiration for The People of the Abyss. A contemporary advertisement for Jack London's book said that it "tingles" with the "directness only possible from a man who knows London as Jacob Riis knows New York," suggesting that his publisher, at least, perceived a resemblance.
When London wrote his book, the phrase "the Abyss" was in wide use to refer to the lowest strata of society. H. G. Wells's 1902 book, Anticipations, uses this phrase in this sense throughout, and in several places uses the phrase "the People of the Abyss.". One writer, analyzing The Iron Heel, refers to "the People of the Abyss" as "H. G. Wells' phrase."
George Orwell was inspired by The People of the Abyss, which he read in his teens, and in the 1930s he began disguising himself as a derelict and made tramping expeditions into poor section of London himself, in emulation of Jack London. The influence of The People of the Abyss can be seen in Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier.
The British newspaper journalist and editor Bertram Fletcher Robinson wrote a review of The People of the Abyss for the London Daily Express newspaper. In this piece, Fletcher Robinson states that it would be "difficult to find a more depressing volume."
- The American Monthly Reviews, 1903, vol. XXVIII, advertisement by The MacMillan Company, p. 771 
- Wells, H. G. (1999) . Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought. New York: Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-40673-3. p. 107: "the working classes—or, more properly speaking... the People of the Abyss..."
- Rideout, Walter B (1992). The Radical Novel in the United States, 1900-1954. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08077-8. , p. 44: "London focuses his climax on 'the People of the Abyss'—H. G. Wells' phrase now appears as a chapter title."
- Shelden, Michael (1991). Orwell: The Authorized Biography. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-016709-2. p. 62, read The People of the Abyss while at St. Cyprians; pp. 121, London's book a "definite source of inspiration;" Orwell "was following its example."
- - Ashburton Guardian 9 January 1904, p.2
- Rees, Rosemary; Shephard, Colin, "OCR British Depth Study 1906-1918: British Society in Change", London : Hodder Murray, 23 Jan 2002, ISBN 0-7195-7734-9 Reference - Page 10 Source 4