London Stories: A Ragged Boyhood by Daniel Defoe

London Stories

I’m in England with my husband who is here for a summer internship. Now we are halfway through our stay, and finally, I think we have settled in! 😀 (Not that it was hard to figure things out, but opening a bank account was a nightmare!) So I decided to pick London Stories as my next short story collection, in the hope of getting a better understanding of the city, as the collection contains both factual and fictional pieces.

The first two stories in the collection; London, Lying Sicke of the Plague by Thomas Dekker (1603) and The Great Fire of London by John Evelyn (1666) are written in archaic English, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it! After multiple failed attempts, I decided to keep them for later to revisit. So I wasn’t off to a great start, but luckily for me, the third story, A Ragged Boyhood by Daniel Defoe, although written in 1722 was easy to comprehend.

A Ragged Boyhood follows the story of “Colonel Jack,” an illegitimate child born to a gentleman. Colonel Jack, abandoned by his parents, is raised by a nurse who also has a son of her own; Captain Jack, and another illegitimate child; Major Jack under her care. But unfortunately, when the boys are young the nurse passes away, and the boys turn to crime. Captain Jack, the eldest becomes a kidnapper, and Major Jack, the youngest becomes a pickpocket. Colonel Jack for the most part of the story remains honest, making money by running errands for the neighbors. Ultimately out of desperation he also becomes an assistant to a pickpocket, and A Ragged Boyhood which reminded me of Oliver Twist has a poignant ending.

A Ragged Boyhood is an excerpt of Daniel Defoe’s novel, Colonel Jack but I didn’t know it when I first read the story. According to Wikipedia, when Colonel Jack was originally published it had a much longer title – The History and Remarkable Life of the truly Honourable Col. Jacque, commonly call’d Col. Jack, who was Born a Gentleman, put ‘Prentice to a Pick−Pocket, was Six and Twenty Years a Thief, and then Kidnapp’d to Virginia, Came back a Merchant; was Five times married to Four Whores; went into the Wars, behav’d bravely, got Preferment, was made Colonel of a Regiment, came over, and fled with the Chevalier, is still abroad compleating a Life of Wonders, and resolves to dye a General – so it sounds very, very interesting and now I want to read the complete version of it!

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4 comments

  1. Congrats on your move to London. And, nice London reviews. I don’t read them often but I like short stories. They are a bit of a lost art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! We are coming back to the US in September. 😀 This is my first time reading city reviews. Everyman’s Library also has a book on Paris Stories, if you are interested. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for the offer, but I’m okay on Paris stories now. Enjoy London. I’ve never been to England and always wanted to go.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks. I hope you’ll get to visit England some day. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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